At Blend, our company culture is just one of the things that we believe makes us stand out. Which is why Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are an integral part of our employee-led initiatives. A diverse workforce where everyone feels empowered to be their authentic selves, freely share their stories and experiences, and take advantage of professional development opportunities is key to building successful teams that drive innovation and success.
Asian@blend is one of ten ERGs Blend proudly supports. Their mission is to build an internal community that elevates awareness and understanding of the various identities, histories, and experiences within the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. ERG leads change annually and the leads are compensated for their terms. But during their tenure, some of their responsibilities include: holding monthly meetings, managing the ERG agenda and communications, and designing programming for culture/heritage months and celebrations.
Ezan Karim, a sales development representative, has been Asian@blend’s lead since January. Along with committee members, Ezan organized several events to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month like weekly AAPI spotlights on Slack, AAPI History and Culture Jeopardy, and a mango sticky rice virtual cooking class to name a few. We’re thrilled that Ezan took time out of his schedule to meet with us and so we could learn more about his life and career, being an ERG lead, and AAPI Heritage Month at Blend.
Meet Ezan Karim
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I moved around a lot during my childhood, but I ended up settling in Pittsburgh, PA. After graduating from Davidson, I started my career as the first business development hire at an early-stage AI startup.
In May 2021, I joined Blend’s sales development team and moved to Manhattan. In my current role, I focus on creating opportunities for our growth team by developing relationships with executives at some of the country’s largest banks and credit unions and sharing information about the impact and potential of Blend’s technology. Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, hip-hop music, and trying new restaurants in NYC.
What brought you to Blend? What has kept you at Blend?
Nima’s story behind why he started Blend really resonated with me [Editor’s note: you can watch the video in the “Our Origin” section of the page].
It’s similar to my own story as the son of Bangladeshi immigrants. I’m motivated by Blend’s mission to bring transparency to consumer finance. By creating an open and equitable consumer lending ecosystem, we have the ability to create opportunities for historically underserved communities to increase collective wealth, which is incredibly important and exciting.
I’m staying at Blend to do my part in executing on this mission. And also because of the people I work with. It’s amazing to be surrounded by colleagues who inspire me to continuously learn new things and grow, both personally and professionally.
What does being involved with an ERG mean to you?
I think that the ERGs are essential to maintaining Blend’s culture, where everyone feels valued, supported, and empowered to be their authentic and best selves. Playing a role in facilitating this environment and the opportunity to bring new ideas to how we can improve the ERG and our company culture going forward means a lot to me.
How has being an ERG lead impacted you, personally and professionally?
Professionally, it’s been the first opportunity I’ve had in my career to organize major events, manage a budget, and lead a committee.
It’s been a great experience getting to work alongside our other ERG leaders and Dayna Wade, our Inclusion Programs Lead. I’ve learned a lot. On a personal level, I feel fortunate to have developed relationships with so many amazing people across the organization.
Tell us about AAPI Heritage month at Blend. How did you develop the theme?
We had a number of initial thoughts for the theme. Over the last two years, we’ve seen an increase in anti-Asian racism, rhetoric, and crime. We recognize that this definitely takes a toll on our community outside of work. We felt that the challenges in our current climate presented an opportunity for us to amplify the experiences, identities, and histories of AAPI communities. Being Seen, Being Heard felt like an appropriate way to express our desire to uplift the community.
What are the broader goals of the Asian@blend ERG this year?
We’d like to increase active membership within the community, especially as we’ve acquired Title 365 and added Blend India within the last year. We’re hoping to pilot a mentorship program by August that is designed to attract and retain talent at Blend.
We’re also actively looking at ways to support Blend India in their social impact initiatives (specifically Team Everest, a youth-run NGO that provides quality education to financially challenged children through volunteering) as well as opportunities for members to support local AAPI communities through volunteerism.
Any favorite career advice, perspective, or wisdom as it relates to growth, leadership, or community?
Steve Jobs gave a speech at a family member’s graduation in 2005. I was really young, so it didn’t mean much at the time. But his parting advice was to “stay hungry, stay foolish.”
To me, staying hungry is recognizing and appreciating the continuous pursuit of knowledge. Especially at Blend, I find myself constantly learning, challenging myself, and figuring out new ways to solve problems and demonstrate value for our customers.
I think that staying foolish is having the willingness to fail fast and not take yourself too seriously. Failure in some form is inevitable; it’s important to do so with grace and learn from experience. I think it’s essential to growth.