From sales to DEIB: Sonos’ Joshua Williams shares why (and how) he pivoted

Photo of Sonos' Joshua Williams, DEI program manager, with quote saying, "My biggest hope is that my story inspires anyone who is currently considering a career change to just take the leap. Especially if the leap is toward a field of passion."

Joshua Williams was passionate about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) from a young age.

Yet, he had no idea he could make a career out of it.

“I was a marketing major in college,” Joshua shares, “but I was heavily involved in roles where DEIB was certainly present. Had I known about DEIB as a career, I’m sure my career track would look much different.”

They say if you find your passion, it will lead you to your purpose — and that’s certainly the case for Joshua. Despite starting his career in sales, he is now a DEI program manager at Sonos.

We sat down with Joshua to hear more about his journey from sales to DEIB, including why (and how) he pivoted.

Nurturing a passion for DEIB

After graduating with a marketing degree, Joshua landed an internship in customer development followed by a series of full-time sales analyst roles.

All the while, his interest in DEIB remained ever-present.

Following the death of George Floyd in June 2020, Joshua recalls checking in on a teammate, the only other Black person on the sales team, with his employer at the time.

“After speaking with a couple of other African American coworkers across the company later that week, it was deemed necessary to ‘bridge the gap’ with a group phone call among other African American employees to create a safe space enabling us to be vulnerable as a group,” Joshua explains. “We decided to survey ourselves in order to identify opportunity gaps that uniquely impact the African American community.”

Their hope was to enable fellow Black colleagues to bring their best selves to work while serving marginalized communities in the greater Columbus, Ohio area.

With a fully developed plan of action, they pitched the idea to the company’s leadership board, and the first employee resource group in the company’s history was born: BRIDGES African American Employee Resource Group.

Pivoting roles with Sonos

With reinvigorated interest in DEIB, Joshua was drawn to Sonos’ commitment to social responsibility and workplace culture as he began exploring new career opportunities.

He decided to apply for Sonos’ sales coordinator opening — and was offered the position.

“My manager on the sales team at the time was very supportive as I considered the shift to DEIB. I recall sharing stories about my passion for DEIB-related work when interviewing for my sales role and being pleased with how supportive he was,” Joshua recalls.

“Once the DEI program manager role opened up, I informed my manager that I was considering applying for it, and he encouraged me to pursue my passion. I could not have asked for a more supportive manager during my shift.”

Navigating new terrain

Joshua credits the DEIB team for helping him get up to speed in his new role.

“They shared information on key contacts and resources to gain context in the initial stages,” he shares, also highlighting that acclimation is a work in progress and he continues to seek out learning and development opportunities.

He also points to the power of transferable skills. Primarily, his ability to collaborate cross-functionally and speak publicly has proven advantageous throughout his transition.

“It is crucial in both sales and DEIB to be able to streamline communication and work streams across various parties,” Joshua notes. “It was really during my time as an ERG leader that my cross-functional collaboration felt most like a leadership development experience. I developed far more as a leader and obtained much more exposure and more of a sense of impact and fulfillment during my tenure leading BRIDGES ERG than ever before.”

While working in sales, Joshua also practiced presenting in front of groups of up to 70 people, and after founding the BRIDGES ERG, this became a regular occurrence. Now, as a DEI program manager, he’s able to tap back into this skill set regularly.

3 strategies to help you pivot into DEIB

If you’re considering pursuing a career in DEIB, Joshua encourages you to implement these three strategies:

  1. Take advantage of the resources around you. “Passion may bring you to this field of work, but structure will allow you to remain intentional about the impact you’re making.”
  2. Do not try to boil the ocean. “It is easy to try to make as much of an impact in as many places as possible. Instead, identify where your greatest priorities lie, then channel your time and efforts accordingly.”
  3. Network. “I cannot imagine where I’d be if I never picked up the phone and began the conversations that would ultimately result in me forming an ERG. Those conversations gave me the reassurance and courage that I needed to take the first step along my DEIB journey, even when I couldn’t see the rest of the staircase.”

“My biggest hope,” Joshua tells us, “is that my story inspires anyone who is currently considering a career change to just take the leap. Especially if the leap is toward a field of passion.”

Want to pursue your passion for DEIB with Sonos? Or, interested in joining an organization that’s committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture? Explore the opportunities with Sonos here.
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