In June, HubSpot held its annual Product Engage, Excite & Reunite (PEER) Week. Held in both Cambridge, Massachusetts and Dublin, Ireland, PEER Week is an opportunity for employees to gather together from all over the globe for three days of team building, social connection and collaboration. Dana Land (she/her), Deliverability Consultant, shares more about her experience at this year's social conference, including a peek into how HubSpot prioritized accessibility and inclusivity to create an impactful experience for all HubSpotters.

July is Disability Pride Month, and the best way to celebrate is to educate yourself on disability rights, access, and inclusion.  

On that note, HubSpot’s Product Employee Experience (PEX) team recently planned and hosted our annual Product Engage Excite & Reunite Week (aka PEER Week), and as a disabled individual, I cannot stop praising the inclusivity of the week!

For a little background, PEER Week at HubSpot is a social conference where teams that are normally distributed across the globe can get together in person and build deeper connections and community with each other and other related Product teams.

Different members of HubSpot’s Messaging Product Group enjoying the photo booth at the marquee event during PEER week.

Caption: Different members of HubSpot’s Messaging Product Group enjoying the photo booth at an event during PEER week.

This was my first PEER Week. Last year, I didn’t attend due to worries that it wouldn’t be accessible. However, this year, I was excited to be able to travel from my home base of Chicago to meet some of my team members and colleagues. And to my pleasant surprise, each step of the PEER Week employee experience, radiated inclusivity. The FAQs included mobility statements, the registration forms included a place to request accommodations and disclose dietary needs, and the PEX team was responsive and friendly when handling questions. Venues were vetted ahead of time for accessibility, and hotel accommodations for disabled individuals (like myself) were also handled by the appropriate teams. It was such a relief to not have to worry that I was going to have to arrange all of my own accommodations. This allowed me to spend more time focusing on connecting with my team.

While not all of the optional team building events were 100% accessible, there were plenty of options, so I didn’t feel left out at all because there were still multiple, accessible options. My team and I were able to pick fun events that fit our collective needs. That’s the key here: I wasn’t forced out of participation, or only given one option: just like my non-disabled peers, I had freedom of choice and the freedom to not be burdened with organizing everything for myself.

Much like my non-disabled peers, I also didn’t have to be afraid to ask questions. If I asked where the accessible stall was, someone knew. If I needed help carrying something, someone was able to help me. If I wasn’t certain how accessible an event was, PEX was there to help me figure it out. If I had a question, there was a good chance PEX had already thought of it and prepared, or they at least knew where we could go together to find the answer. I didn’t have to be alone all week. 

I’ve worked in a lot of places that didn’t consider accessibility or inclusivity for disabled employees until after the fact. So much of my previous experience in the workplace has been as someone’s afterthought - but I didn’t feel that at all during HubSpot’s PEER Week. I have never felt closer or more connected to my colleagues in the Product & Engineering org. Being able to trust that I could participate fully in the entire week allowed me to feel like a true HubSpotter, and it showed. My ideas flowed freely, future product releases were discussed, and I couldn’t be more excited about the future of the product and my future at HubSpot.

Scenes from HubSpot's 2023 Peer WeekScenes from HubSpot's 2023 Peer WeekScenes from HubSpot's 2023 Peer Week
Caption: Scenes from HubSpot's 2023 PEER Week.
If you’re looking to build your own event and are looking for some inspiration, here is how HubSpot and our PEX team baked inclusivity into the week-long social event!

Build a safe community for disabled individuals

The easiest way to start making your company or event inclusive is to build a community where disabled individuals feel safe speaking up and discussing their experiences with each other. HubSpot has two primary community groups - the Disability Alliance and Neurodiversity at HubSpot.

After PEER Week was announced, this was the first place I went to ask for tips, tricks, and to ease some of my worries.

Members of these groups were able to provide advice on what accessibility looks like at the airport, the best places to decompress in the office, and kind words about how normal it is to be scared, and that it will be okay.

Hire a knowledgeable, diverse team

I was so impressed with PEX’s inclusivity planning, that I asked Program Manager Shannon Warfield how it was done.

“We have the following resources for internal use that are discussed with any vendors/venues we collaborate with:

  • In-person accessibility venue checklist
  • Remote event accessibility checklist
  • Accommodations request checklist (to include in registration forms)

And while we don't have specific 'accessibility meetings' per say, we do talk about accessibility for physical, cognitive, dietary and accommodation needs for every event.”

The base for some of the checklists that Shannon and her team uses were brought over from Shannon’s previous role working at a non-profit that empowers people with disabilities to live, learn, work and play.

Shannon said it best: “I think it's a shining example of why we hire diverse backgrounds to fill roles. The people who hired me at HubSpot interviewed someone who was in fundraising and took a risk based on my values and spirit. And with that, I was able to take my experiences working for diverse companies and coworkers and share those learnings with the team I helped grow here who’ll have a very accessible-first frame of mind when approaching events.”

Engage with feedback

Post PEER Week, our PEX team opened forms to gather feedback from attendees, including feedback on inclusivity, accessibility, and experience. They also reviewed the questions they received before, during, and after PEER Week.

Most importantly, they acted on the feedback they received. For example, our FAQs already included information about mobility accessibility- such as wheelchair friendliness, and walking distances, as well as access to public transportation. They will now include information about accessibility at airports which is a new piece of information that was gathered through PEX listening to common concerns.

The best way to show your disabled teammates or employees they are welcome is to listen when they share feedback, and then action it. ‘Listening & learning’ is only as helpful as you are willing to ‘adapt & grow’.

Consider hiring a consultant

The world of accessibility and inclusivity is huge, and can be easy to get lost in, but there is never shame in looking for resources. One resource HubSpot offers for our internal teams is our DisabilityIN consultant. DisabilityIN provides customized consulting to help grow disability inclusivity in your workplace. This can be incredibly helpful for finding a place to start for your team or company’s path to inclusivity!

Ensuring your teams and events are inclusive to disabled individuals will keep your employees happy and engaged. It doesn’t matter where you start, what matters most is that you’re starting. 

Want to learn more about what it's like to work at HubSpot? We're hiring - check out our Careers Page for your next opportunity! And for a behind-the-scenes look at our culture, visit our Careers Blog or follow us on Instagram @HubSpotLife.

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