Black Stories/07: Timothy Bardlavens

Timothy Bardlavens, Product Design Leader at Meta, joins Sr. Media Producer Justin James Lopez for a chat about navigating whiteness in corporate America and loving yourself. Let's hear his story!

Timothy Bardlavens is chaotic good in its purest form. He is a Gay, Black man from the Carolinas, the youngest son of a single mother and everything institutional trauma and oppression says you cannot be or become. He is a Design Leader, a Cultural Strategist, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) specialist, a Co-Founder, a writer and an International Speaker & Facilitator on topics of design & tech culture, equity, white supremacy and systems of oppression.


Over the past decade, he has also built and scaled teams, set product vision and strategy for Facebook App, Zillow, Microsoft, Capital One and others. Currently a Sr. Manager of Product Design at Meta, Timothy leads Problems & Ecosystem within Central integrity—who’s missions are to create scalable solutions to reduce harm, abuse, and misinformation while also increasing peoples’ voice and equitable outcomes across the family of apps (i.e. Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp & Metaverse) for over 3.6 billion people around the world. Previously, he led Community Relevance and Culture within Facebook App—whose mission is to create experiences that enable culture to emerge and thrive on Facebook.


As a cultural strategist, he specializes in assessing, dismantling and rebuilding organizational cultures built on systems of oppression and white supremacy. Timothy works with leaders to develop people-centric strategies with clear, actionable steps to increase diversity, create more inclusive spaces and design more equitable systems.



Partnering with Antionette Carroll, Timothy co-founded &Design—an organization whose mission is to cultivate and activate Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Designers by providing tools, resources and training to support them on their creative career journey. 

Timothy is an active member of Adobe’s Design Circle, as well as an international speaker and facilitator, speaking on topics of Organizational Culture, DEI, Design Diversity, Racial Justice Product Design/Development, Inclusive Design and more.



  • Full Episode Transcript
  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Amazon's Black Stories, where we highlight the stories of Black designers, researchers, and creative minds from all around the world. I'm your host, Justin James Lopez. And today, I'm joined by Timothy Bardlavens, where we discuss navigating whiteness as a conceptual reality and being comfortable in the skin that you're in. Let's hear his story. Thanks for joining me today, Timothy. Is it Timothy? Is it Tim? What would you prefer?

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Both. Makes my life much easier.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Okay. Tim's easier for me. So I'm going to go with Tim, but for the listeners here, tell us a little bit more about what you do and where you are in life right now.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Professionally, I work at Meta, formally known as Facebook.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Nice.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • I hate that name still.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • But the world loves it.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • It feels so stupid saying it, but I work at Meta and I've been at Meta for about two years. The first couple years has been in communities. When people find community, build community, redefine what community means for them, also cultural relevance. So how do people sort of find the things that are culturally relevant in the world? How do you learn more about things like Black lives matter or like who Virgil Abloh is when he passed or things like that, as well as just how do you help people get out of their circle and into the broader sort of space of the world? So connecting the world to people outside of just friends and family. So I did that for first couple years and a recently just switched teams.

  • So now I am leading a couple teams within central integrity. And what that means is that across all of Meta's almost 3 billion people that use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, as well as Reality lab So AR VR, there's a centralized team that works with what we call surface teams that look at integrity. So how do we do things like reduce bullying, harassment, misinformation, hate speech, child pornography, or child safety, things in general. And so all those things. So we connect to the Instagram wellness team that has this youth team and things like that. And so I'm leading what we call problems in ecosystems.

  • So one is around really target focuses on how we reduce harm and increase equitable outcomes for people across the platform. The other is how do we create more proactive, like first line and last line defense mechanisms and how do we support the people who are actually looking at content, because there's the machine learning side of it. And then there's actual humans in different countries across the world who are looking at content and just deciding through our policy, whether it should be removed or not. And so I basically support those teams that do that work for all of the apps. It's a lot.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah, it is a lot. But it's important work. Right? I think that that's really interesting. So some titles that you did mention that I thought were really interesting is in the bio that you sent me and also I've seen it in the world from looking at all of the information on your chaotic good in its purest form is something that you describe yourself as, as well as a cultural strategist, which kind of bleeds into a lot of what you're talking about here. Where did that title come from? What's the origin point for that?

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Well, and it's funny because actually it wasn't until I joined Facebook that I realized what chaotic good even meant because I also had to battle with the fact that I really struggled with people who were neutral good and I think neutral good is actually closely related to what Martin Luther King calls, the white modernist. It's not the conservative you should worried about, it's the person who's moderate and who's like sort of okay with things, but it's the right way to do things as long as it's done in a certain way. And so as I learned more about the out kind of, I was like, I'm 1% chaotic good. I'm happy setting stuff on fire and just letting it burn, but then rebuilding from scratch and that's systems, that's teams, that's people, that's whatever I need to do to make sure that it moves towards the right path because I think we try so hard, especially with systems to fix them.

  • It's like, well you can't fix what's not broken. And so it needs to be set on fire. It needs to be burnt. It needs to be rebuilt. And so that's where that chaotic good comes from. Cultural strategist is actually just, it's part of what I've sort of just been doing consistently over time. It started out with organizational culture and how do you sort of build a team? How do you work through change management? How do you sort of think about work in organizations through the lens of diversity equity inclusion? What is equity in the space of an organization and then really taking that and it branches out into things like how do you reduce harm in products? How do you understand delegated power and all these other things. I saw all these around like culture really and truly is like design, right?

  • And my best friend is Antionette Carroll and I always end the quote her at least one time in every talk or article that I write or do. But she's a really great example of a designer that's not in the traditional sense of design, as in she is creating an artifact as it relates to let's say a logo or an app or things like that. But she is a designer within a cultural sense or community sense and so she created equity center community design, which is all around how do you sort of co-create different experiences and bring in people with lived experiences, things like that.

  • And so me being a cultural strategist, I think is sort of the, I would say if she's the entrepreneurial and community based version of that, then I am the intrapreneural and organizational version of that. And so I think that's where our relationship and our friendship is really interesting is that she learns a lot from me as an intrapreneur because she's been an entrepreneur for years now. And I learned a ton from her as an entrepreneur, leading her own nonprofit and things like that. But yeah, it's just, it's those things where you kind of pick it up and learn it over time. The articulation of who I am today is very different than what it was a year ago and five years ago. And it's likely going to change again in a couple years.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah, no. I like that, that defining and redefining process of who we are, right, as we as navigate through life is really interesting. That's naturally when you were making that statement around defining the chaotic good and what that really represented, how you got to that. My thought process really went into that same space that you were talking about with that idea that people that just stand by are really kind of no better than the people that are taking the negative actions. Right. Because you know it's wrong, but you just kind of like let it happen.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Yeah. When I was doing organizational culture, I do this presentation to leaders, executive leadership. And I would talk to them about what we want our people that are propagators or advancers of the culture. Right. And honestly, it's okay if we have people who are antipathetic of it. Right. They don't want it because we know where people stand. When you're apathetic and you just don't care. I was like, that is actually the most detrimental thing to an organization as an apathetic individual because they allow things to just exist. They don't take a stand one way or the other. And so it's very hard to identify and also understand what you identified what does to do with it.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah. I also don't like passive aggressive people, but-

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • That's all of Seattle, right?

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah. I've never described an entire city that way until I moved here.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Mm-hmm (affirmative).

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • But no. So one thing that I had to ask you now that I have you on the show was we, as a part of the Black Stories podcast, it's about really just kind of understanding where one of the critical pieces that I heard in one of the episodes earlier in the season, was the idea that there's always a seat for Black people, as long as you're willing to kind of work for that, which I think is true, but there's also another aspect of it that we don't spend enough time talking about, but you actually spent quite a bit of time talking about, and that's really the other side of that. And that's that idea of navigating whiteness, right?

  • And you've spent quite a bit of time on your personal blog, as well as on different interviews, kind of discussing this topic in different forms and how it manifests in different ways. And I want to spend some time talking about that, both inside of design and just in the world. And I have a few questions around that, but for people that aren't as familiar, can you kind of walk us through where that started for you in this, exploring this idea of navigating whiteness?

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • So there's a couple things. One again, like when I talk about my friend being an entrepreneur, me being an intrapreneur, one of the most important things about being an intrapreneur is that when you hear folks, especially you hear lot of folks like try to be empowering and encouraging say, Hey, we should own our own Black people this, we can do this and that. So where it looks great. Quite honestly, I don't want to be an entrepreneur. Just because you're pushing everyone to own their own business to doing a thing doesn't mean that's the only path and that's the right path for everyone. I think a lot of us get caught up in the, oh well for me to own my own shit and to do this and do that, I must be an entrepreneur. It's like, no, I'm going to do that, but I'm going to make sure everyone around me gives me respect that I deserve because that's just how I'm going to navigate this space.

  • And so the big thing for me is like, well, being an entrepreneur might allow me to have a more improved experience where I can sort of carve out what to engage with others, but being an intrapreneur can also give me those same things, if I know how to understand what I'm looking at and how I've navigate the space. And so part of it is that, other part of it's just like, it's just over time. Over time, I've started to just notice some of the same things and some of the same conversations and I would talk to someone and they would have a similar experience as me. And I'm like, is the world just so calculated that everyone is just experiencing the same thing just with a different name?
  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • And just realized like, no, it is legit the same system.

  • And the system of whiteness is the system itself. Right? And so America is built on the system of whiteness, right? The reason why it exists is because someone thought, they came and they saw a piece of land and said, I'm going to claim this. I'd be damned who lives there. It's now mine because I want it for its resources, for its space, for whatever. Right. And so I think that the articulation of whiteness is the thing of understanding colonialism. It's the thing of understanding that governments and laws were created first and foremost to protect whiteness in businesses or property. If you look at how slaves were treated, if you were looking at how slave patrols are created and how those slave patrols turn into police departments is because it is a protection of whiteness and of property. That's why more people were upset last year when a target was getting vandalized and the fact that someone was murdering their own bed.

  • And so these are the things that sort of, you start to realize whiteness, it bubbles up in all these different ways. And then for me, it was trying to figure out, well, how do I articulate this through the lens of design because it's the work that I'm doing and it's the work that affects so many people around the world, but how we're taught to design is through the lens of whiteness. We're taught through the lens of these grids and this structure and this very right way to do this thing. And it's very wrong way to do this thing. And so once you start to see those things, just to understand like, well, how we your research, why are we going with this saviorism mindset of like, we're going to take an hour, two hour, even a week to go and think about learning your culture and then tell you what you need to do better about it.

  • Things like that are all situated in whiteness and this understanding that I know better than you. And so I'm going to help you. I'm going to give this to you. How many companies do you work for that say, Hey, we're changing the world. And it's like, oh really? So who in the world is included in it? Right. And so it is sort of just like, both the understanding how I navigate space and how I've had to while also saying that, how we build product, experiences, whatever, it's still through this lens and we all sit and all go through it. And it's not true to just America, but across the world. One example I use in my writing is how there's like a situation with Jo Malone. And you have John Boyega, who is, so he gives his life story in Jo Malone creates an ad campaign.

  • They win an award on this ad campaign of his life story, of his love of being with friends in London, his love of riding horses, things like that. And they send it over to China. And what they do is they take his whole story, but switch him out for an Asian man or a Chinese man. And they run it and they think it's okay. And it's like, it's still whiteness. It's this desire or love of homogeny. And they say like, this is the story, it don't matter. As long as it's with this look on it and if it doesn't have this look, then it doesn't fit.

  • And so their assumption was, well, as Asian markets, they won't be able to connect with the Black man, but then they also don't realize that there's historically this problem where Black people in Asian countries are usually seen through movies more than anything. And in movies, they're usually thugs, they're war criminals or something like that. And so then there's a fear that it's innately stuck on Black people and they go to these other countries because most people have only seen them through the lens of media. It goes deep.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Oh yeah, it gets deep. That was heavy. That was heavy. But as a concept, I get that because I liked the homogenous example that you used, right. That idea of like, it's not whiteness is more than just, it's a concept, right? And that concept is what bleeds into all things. And it kind of blinds us in the way of putting that lens in front of everything that we do and every aspect that we do it.

  • You sound like a person that has navigated that in a very specific way throughout your life. And you've been able to find your stride in being able to kind of tackle and disrupt these spaces. What do you say to the person that isn't as comfortable being able to step up because it is, that's a question that we really need to answer because we need people that are there, right where you are. But there's a lot of people that are just like, what I like to say is like, there's three types of people, right? There's winners, there's losers and there's people that haven't really figured out how to win yet. So how do you describe that to the people that haven't figured out how to win yet, to move into this space of being able to be comfortable in this disruption?

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • So a couple things. One of the questions I get most often from people, especially Black folks, and really if I could be even more specific, especially Black women who want to pursue design, especially design within tech is a concern of being the only one. And I have to tell people all the time, you have been the only one most likely your entire life in some way, unless you've grown up in specific areas across the country, then generally, you have always been the only one. I'm sorry, but that's just the world we live in. You have to get over it. You have to get over not wanting to be the only one because ultimately we are and the thing that you change is, once you're in that space is the only one, you can one, make it because it's always a decision.

  • You can one make the decision to step up and say, Hey, I want to help recruit other people. I want to convince more people to come. I want to be a support system for the folks who are there, to get them to stay, whatever the case may be. Or two, you exist in that space, the best way you can and you do your best work. And I always say it has to be a choice because some people don't feel safe doing it. And I would never push someone to do something they don't feel safe to do, or they don't have the energy to do. Because the work that I do is because I have the energy to do, and it energizes me. For other people, it's exhausting and they don't want to do it. They should not be pressured to do it. And I think that's the hardest part about a lot of this work is because we want to see more of us and we feel obligated to do that.

  • And so then it's like, oh, now I'm tired. And it's actually, I usually, you do the same with, I say, Black and brown folks, people from lower income or immigrants, it's the same situation but different scenario. You feel as though, especially if you're a child, your parents don't have a lot of money, you start making money. You almost feel obligated to pay for your parents, like your mother's debts, and buy my parents a house and get them a car and this and so on and so forth. It's like, well, I have to do that because they took care of me. So I got to take care of them. One of the hardest lessons I learned, I learned very quickly, because me and mother stopped talking about six months, which is crazy because I'm like the youngest, I'm the momma's boy. But the hardest lesson I learned was one, while I love her and I appreciate her. I did not ask to be born. I did not ask her to keep me, but that doesn't mean am I going to take care of her.

  • It just means I'm not obligated to do everything. Right.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • And then two, was the fact that she took care of me and my two siblings alone. I'm helping her a lot just about not being in the house and off of her pay, she don't have to pay for nothing for me. I am helping just by doing that. But it's the same with being in these spaces is the only one is like, oh man, I want to bring these other people in. I have to do this. I have to mentor. I have to grow people. I have to do. It's like, no, actually you don't, you can chill if you need to, because that is your choice.

  • So that's usually always my baseline is I have to make sure that people understand there's a level of choice and safety and you have to assess your own situation. And the safety could be, I feel safe in doing this, so I will. I don't feel safe, but I'm going to do it anyway. I don't feel safe and I'm going to stay. I don't feel safe and I'm going to leave.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Those are one of your, or you can choose one of those options, all those options, none of them is up to you. And when it comes to how you do it, one is a really and truly is once you've done that safety assessment to see, is that space ready for you? Are you ready for it? It's to say, okay, what is that for you? Right. I had to figure out who the hell I was before I was really ready to do that.

  • But also, I just didn't jump out and say, Hey, I'm Tim. I'm the Blackest gayest thing you ever met. I had to like sort of, I had to baby step that thing. So first was, I think the first step to it was I'd started defining myself in interviews. So when I did a portfolio presentation, the very first slide was I'm the Black guy. And I took the time to define what that meant, especially knowing that there's only, and this is weird, but for the past 30 years, this measurement has stayed the same of there's only about 3% of Black people in design. It's weird that it's been 30 years and that has not moved at all. But I would explain what it to be a Black designer. I explained what it means to come to, well, to approach design with my own personal lived experience.

  • Because I do come from a lower income family. I am a gay man. I am from the south. There is a bunch of these things that come with me as my own baggage and those are my narrative and I don't want to remove them. I want to be all of those things. I think some people are like, well, I don't want to just be the Black one. I don't want to just be this like, well shit, I'm going to be all of them. And I'm happy to be every single one of them. Now how you approach me about those identities is different than who I identify as. Those are two different things. Some people don't want to be approached as the Black one, but they also are trying to erase their Blackness. And I think that's kind of where problems come in. That's a whole of the subject though.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Oh. Oh. Yeah. Oh yeah. That one's heavy. We might have to take that one offline, but no. But it's valid. Right. And I think that touched me in a number of ways because, I come from a mixed background. Where I came from, not only do, in my family, do I have that ethnic and racial diversity as far as like just my own make-up. But if you look at the broader scope of my extended family, it's like really just a color palette of the world and it's really interesting. But also there was a span where I came from a really low social economic place, full of crime and all of that, but not everyone in my family did. So there was always those disparities that created riffs in our ability to connect.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • And how they saw you.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Exactly.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Because just because you live over there, you might not be a part of it because you live in that neighborhood, you are associated with this thing. Oh, you most likely will end up like them too.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah. It's interesting because I remember getting to college, right. And I went to Villanova, which was like, it was a really great school and the polar opposite of where I grew up. So I got there and it's like culture shock. But also we had certain courses, where at one of my degrees was focused around like criminology and the psychology behind the criminal mind and things like that. It was really interesting. But a lot of our case studies were dealing with where I grew up, not conceptually, but the actual physical location of where I grew up. And then everyone would go, like all the-

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • And you feel like now you have to be a representation of your entire a community and say, oh, it's not like that. Or whatever the case may be.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah. It is tough. So I hear what you're saying, where it's like, sometimes it's just enough to just kind of exist in this space and kind of take the brunt of that work, instead of saying like, Hey, I have to do all of the things. But I think that that's a valuable piece of knowledge, especially for the listeners here that are thinking or have been feeling that pressure of like, Hey, you don't have to solve all of the world's problems.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Yeah.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • You really don't.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • No is self-care right. You can literally be the only Black person in the room, have a bunch of white people surrounding you and they're talking about Black issues. They look to you as a voice and you say, Nope, I'm good. And that's okay and you should feel okay doing that. And you should not feel guilty if they go and do some problematic shit afterwards, because that's not on you. Because that's a thing too, right? Because it kills me sometimes it's like, there's certain like commercials or certain things that happened there, man was there not a Black person in the room to tell this was problematic. And I was like, you know what? I hope there was, I hope they sat there and said, Nope, they going to learn they lesson on this one.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Because sometimes, I don't have kids, but I know enough people kids to know that sometimes you got to let them burn their hands so they learn not to touch the stove no more.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah, so I agree with that. I have a, and it may be problematic, but I have a four year old son and he gets into a lot of things, man. He's jumping off of things. He's always trying. And sometimes I go, maybe I should stop this. And then sometimes I go, you going to mess around and find out, right. You going to find out and that's fine.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • I make sure you don't die. But-

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Exactly. That's my charge. My charge is like, you're going to stay alive to learn the lesson here. And I think that that's really valuable because a friend of mine told me this and it was really interesting. He said, we're specifically, as I mentioned, I come from a mixed background. So specifically from the Black and brown side, we're the only group of people and this may or may not be true for every scenario. But we're the only group of people that consistently want to make the people around us, especially the people around us that come from different backgrounds, comfortable in every setting that we bring them in. But that is not something that is reciprocated when we are brought into their settings. And that's so interesting that we take, like who taught us that? Where did that come from?

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Oh again, whiteness. Right? It is a system and so, because we have ingrained in us from our great grandparents, don't drink from that fountain. Don't look them in the eyes, make sure you say yes ma'am, no ma'am. All those things that you did as a Black or brown person towards white folks to allow them to maintain superiority because we've done that and that has been ingrained in our culture deeply. Especially you got to think like, and this is something where sometimes I don't always have the greatest empathy for immigrant African Americans because I don't think they fully... I'm not going to say all of them, but many of them may not fully understand what that actually means. I think folks who live in South Africa during the apartheid, I think they would get it a bit more.

  • But like for us, when you know that you are brought over as property and every generation until maybe only about 20 or so years ago, truly only about 20 or so years ago, every generation has been taught that you make space for them. You get of their way. You give them your seat. You show them reverence. Every generation, this is now in our DNA to do this. And so to break that, is to really break generations of like shackles that have been put on you. So you talk about generational wealth. One of the most wealthy things you can do is for your ancestors and yourself is to say, I'm going to break this chain because obviously it's holding me down, right? Wealth isn't just the abundance of money. It's the abundance of life. And your life is being held down by you thinking you always have to, was it capitulate yourself?

  • I think that's the right word. But basically, you have to humble yourself for this other thing, this other person's other entity, which never did anything to deserve your respect outside of being born with lighter skin than you.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • And so it's the craziest thing and one thing, so 2019, I did this before, this is my new year's resolution for 2019, because I started writing more because I also was like tweeting more things like that. And I told myself, I was like, starting 2019. I will never respond to white tears again. I will not make space for it. I don't care for it. And so I had this mantra. I was like, I don't care how uncomfortable you feel. I am not making you uncomfortable. That's not my job. That's on you to figure out why you're uncomfortable and figure that shit out.

  • But I'm not going to sit here and try to do things for myself to make you feel better. And this was a journey for me as well. This journey started like in 2014 when I was working at this place in Charlotte and it was this manufacturing company. It was like my first real, real design job. And I went every day feeling like I was going to get fired. Because I was a Black man, I knew that I always had to be happy and joyful. I had to lean on being gay because that made me less dangerous to being a Black man. All these things right, that I had to do. And I was like, you know what? I am tired of prostrating myself for you people, for what? To pray that you don't fire me next week. Why? Tell me, why am I doing this?

  • Why am I so stressed out? Why is my blood pressure so high trying to make you all feel good? And I was like, you know what? I'm over it. And 2019 hits, like I'm really over it. I just, I go give it. I'm going to say what I'm going to say. I'm going to do what I'm going to do. And I've been that way ever since. I don't know if it's the right comparison that, but part of me is like, you know what? I just want to be the Malcolm X of product design. I just don't want to give a damn, and I just want to be like, you know what? The white devil this and mind you, I have a lot of white friends. Yeah. That's the quote. Right. But I have a lot of different friends and stuff, but they all know that Tim will call some stuff out and just be who he is.

  • I'm going to say it out loud. I was just in the meeting the other day. And there was a person who was saying, he was one of the directors. He was telling the team, he was like a roadmap review, just tell the team. Yeah, I want y'all to just figure this out, just see what makes sense. don't want y'all to be slaves to the roadmap. And I pinged on the side. I was like, it's odd that you use a metaphor of slavery to talk about how you don't want a team to be beholden to something. Because you can just use the word beholden or you don't want them to anchor on it. There's a lot other words, slave isn't one of them though.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • And it's just, it's these things where I'm just like, you know what? I just, I always introduce myself when I go to especially industry conferences and stuff. I always introduce myself as the Black gay man. And especially when I was in Seattle, I'll point out to all, I was like, Hey, this room is very white and Asian. And I would say that because I wanted people to look around and see oh, is a very homogenous space. And for this topic, we're about to talk about, you're going to get real uncomfortable. Let's go ahead and prime it.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah. You got to lean into that. I love that though. I think that there's this aspect of what you're saying where it's, I'm not an intimidating person just because you're intimidated. I'm not, what I said, it's not offensive just because you're offended and that's really powerful to make those distinctions so that you can really kind of live in what companies say, like your authentic self, right? They say, bring your authentic self. You don't really want my authentic. You want my compartmentalized authenticity.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Yep.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • That makes you feel comfortable, which is really interesting. What do you say to the young designer, young future aspiring designer that wants to shift into this, basically on the topic of that 3% that you mentioned, right. Is over what? The last 30 years, which is a crazy stat, as you mentioned, but what do you say to the new generations that are looking at what they want to do as far as what they should expect coming into this kind of space?

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Go back what you said really quickly, just so that people understand that the right to comfort is a preceptive, white supremacy. There's multiple concepts or precepts of it. Right to comfort is one of them. It's like, and it is basically white folks saying I have the right to be as comfortable as I need to be or want to be and is on you to make sure I'm liked. That's a habit we have to break. As it relates to young upcoming designers or I would say professionals in general because I don't even think that it's just for designers. One is, expect to be in very non welcoming spaces sometimes. You won't get it right the first time. I'm a very different person than most, probably other people on this who will listen to this.

  • Right? And so how you assess whether or not a space is safe for you and whether that you can be authentic, whatever that means, has to be your own internal journey. And so that means you have to make a mistake or choose a company and think it's going to be great. And then they turn out to be toxic as hell. And then it's up to you to decide, do I deal with this toxicity? Do I leave it? Do I call it out again? It's up to you what you do, but it will happen. You will always, at least not even once, multiple times in your career, you will be in spaces where you're the only one. You have to be okay with that and understand how do you own that space and only your power in that space because being the only one is powerful.

  • I think we try so hard to fit in and say, oh, I want to be in more of these Black centered spaces, whatever to fit in or really to feel safe, is really and truly it, right? It's like, well, how do you generate your own level of safety? How do you generate your own level of power by saying by me being the only one that means I come in with a different perspective, a different experience, a different whatever, which actually can push this conversation further, push this initiative further, whatever the case may be and just own that shit. And then also don't be cocky about it, because you the only one just because you might know don't mean you need to be an asshole. I guess the last thing is being clear to understand when is it that people are, and this is something that even I'm still making the differentiation is when is it that people are uncomfortable or offended by you because of their own sensibilities and when have you actually caused harm and being able to understand when you've caused harm?

  • Your intent doesn't matter, when have you caused harm and how do you acknowledge and apologize or fixed whatever that harm that you've caused. And I think that's really hard is that sometimes the flip side of Blackness and wanting to really come into yourself is you go so hard with it and you go in almost, you almost become either one, a victim, which is perpetuating whiteness because you're like, oh, well you're just saying this to me because I'm Black or because of this, because that, it's always going back to your race or your gender and it almost, you start to victimize yourself, you have to figure out, what is that bounce? Because there are times in which it 100% is, there are times where you just need to be more self reflective and say, actually this might be you.

  • Right. People have to understand where that line is. So that's one piece of it. The other is like, or you get really cocky and say, oh I'm the shit. I'm blah, blah. I'm Black, so for Black power and then you just start laying waste to all the bridges that you had just setting fire one after the other.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • And then you're stuck because you thought that you were like being the boss ass Black person, but instead you were actually just being an asshole. And I think that that's kind of the thing that you learn. There's really no really advice for it. You just learn it over time and you try to find you some good mentors, but then you even take some of those mentors with a grain of salt. Because I have some older Black mentors, I listen to about 20% of what they say mainly because some of it is still internalized whiteness that they've picked up over time to be successful, protect themselves in their career.
  • And their level of self protectionism is great and it helped them get to where they are. But it doesn't mean I need to follow that same path. But the other strategies and things that I do get from them were like, you know what? I really need to think about that. I really need to navigate that better. So it's really having that level of self-awareness to learn you, learning self, internalize it, sit in the dark, sit in the quiet and you say, who am I? What do I want to be? And what do I believe? What are my values? And then figure out what does that mean to walk through life like that? And it's not something where you have a notebook and you just like flashing everywhere. You just start to realize there are certain moments where your value's going to pop up. You say, you know what? I'm not going to do that. I'm going to, or you know what, I'm going to walk away from this. I'm good.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • There's a lot of power in that. So many gems, you drop so many gems today. And I want to, I appreciate it, honestly. I think that it's really interesting to think about that concept of having that space to really understand who you are and not who you are in reference to other people, which is, I think what we do a lot and kind of what you're describing. I remember having a recent conversation with a coworker where I had to describe a thing in, I switched careers very recently and completely shifted what I've been doing for that last decade of my life. And they said, did you have any imposter syndrome shifting into a new space? And I was like, I actually stopped using the concept imposter syndrome. What I say now is I either have a psychologically safe space to make mistakes and grow or I don't.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Exactly.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • And that's it.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Exactly.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • And that's the toxicity that I removed from my life of like, if I don't have a psychologically safe space, then it doesn't matter what I'm doing. This isn't the space for me. But that's a lot of what you're describing and really just kind of finding your own identity, finding your own path and not feeling like you have to do the things because you feel like you're supposed to, right. This is the thing.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Yeah. I love that. Because imposter syndrome is either self-inflicted or societally inflicted, right? So self-inflicted is the, I'm looking left and looking right? Why aren't I the same as these people or doing as good as, or blah blah. And I did this a lot because I originally wanted to be a writer, so I didn't actually get into design until right until my tail end and junior year of college and everyone else had been doing design for years, they grew up with it. They were drawers and everything else. I looked around these people like, man, I'm never going to be like them. And then when I got to college, I was like, man, I ain't never going to be like them. And they were making their own little headway and stuff when I stopped giving a damn and I look up now they look at my class, but it's like, well shoot, I'm actually doing better than a lot of y'all.

  • And I mean, it's not in a way, not saying I'm not comparing myself to them anymore, but I was like, oh, I was so focused on them, I wasn't paying attention to my own trajectory. But when I actually got done with focusing on it, it was like, no, let me just focus on what I want. What is this important to me, all of a sudden, I started hitting fast down the racetrack and I look back and say, oh, oh, that's where they were. Okay, cool. Let me just keep going then because it ain't my business. So that self inflicted one was a problem. And then the society inflicted is like you said, is it a toxic environment? Especially in tech, we have a lot of this. Oh, if you're a designer or you're engineer, whatever case may be, you should look like this and be shaped like this and so on and so forth.

  • It's like one of the biggest pieces of feedback I give folks when they come in to try to interview for Facebook, I do what's called loop guides. And so basically with Black and brown folks, I'll spend 45 minutes or so, look through their portfolio stuff. And the same feedback I give every single of them is that first two to three minutes, your presentation should be about who you as a human being, I don't care about your resume. You're in here for an interview. What do we need your resume for? What are you proving? You don't have anything to prove. You got the interview, right?

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • So tell me who you are as a human. Why are you passionate? What are you passionate about? What are the things that are important to you? Tell me about your family. Do you have kids?

  • Where do you live? Where are you from? Who are you as a being? Because quite honestly, that's going to be more important to me than how many other companies you worked at. You wouldn't be at this interview if you weren't good enough. You're here for a reason. And I think a lot of folks, they kind of forget that like it's interviews, right? Going back to the, how do people sort of figure these things out? It's like they go with approach them as give me a job. I need you. And they forget to be like, wait, I'm interviewing y'all too.

  • I need to know if this is going to be toxic. I need to know if y'all going to be comfortable with me being Black. I put I'm the Black one on this, on this screen, what did y'all faces do? Who looked around? Who shifted uncomfortably? How can I get signal, whether verbally or through body emotion or whatever the case be, how can I get signal whether or not this is going to be a good enough and healthy enough place for me or if this is all just sparkles and rainbows. But as soon as I sign my name on that dotted line, then all of a sudden it's something different.

  • Justin James Lopez:
  • Yeah. What's true for one person, isn't always going to be true for the next. And I think that that's like one of the biggest themes here for the listeners to leave with that idea that we've been able to navigate our unique spaces and find our version of success in different ways and our version of failures in different ways, right? It's the one, stop measuring your bloopers to my highlight reel because we're all really just kind of winging it anyway and trust yourself, right? Trust yourself and trust the feelings that you have because I think that that's really important. But Tim, thank you for your time and joining us today on this episode, it was absolutely wonderful. And I look forward to continuing to build our friendship.

  • Timothy Bardlavens:
  • Appreciate you.
  •