Gap Inc.’s LGBTQ Young Adults Career Connections Event Emphasizes Networking, Authenticity

by Mark Daniel Snyder, Communications Manager

Gap Inc.

June 18, 2019

Alica, 22, is living in a housing program provided by Larkin Street Youth Services, a nonprofit empowering young people to move beyond homelessness. Her goal is to find a job, perhaps at Gap or Starbucks, with the support of her mentors, so that she can get on her feet and live on her own. It’s people like Alicia who inspired Jacob Paradeis, Category Manager of Strategic Sourcing, to create Gap Inc.’s first LGBTQ Career Connections event during Pride month, continuing the company’s long history of celebrating equality and opportunity. The event brought together Bay Area employers and hiring experts with local non-profit organizations that work with young LGBTQ people and at-risk youth.      

Gap Inc.’s employee-led LGBTQ network group organized the half-day event, welcoming representatives from Levi’s, LinkedIn, Starbucks, and US Bank to participate. “By joining hands across industries, we can make a bigger impact for LGBTQ young people and their futures,” said Paradeis. “It feels good to do good.”  

Lyft provided ride credits for the young people to have transportation to Gap Inc.’s headquarters.   

The event kicked off with a panel hosted by Tiwah Griffin, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Old Navy, who noted a phrase of advice her son’s karate teacher often says: “You’re not a loser, you’re a learner.” Like her fellow panelists, she emphasized the importance of not being afraid to fail, being your authentic self, and forming a strong social network that you can leverage to move your career forward.   

Carlos Avalos, Vice President of Recruiting at US Bank, said his experience working at the grill of a fast food restaurant and then as a cashier helped inform his entire career. “I learned to be on time, be responsible, and work well with others. I love talking to people and I love cash – it was a great experience!”   


Kirk Pestlin, Sr. Director Merchandising for Banana Republic, also pointed out the insight he gained from working in stores before transferring to corporate headquarters. He emphasized the importance of continuing to listen to the people who interact with customers. “Find the joy in everything you learned on the front lines,” he said.  “In my experience, it’s easy to teach people how to read a chart but what is unteachable is all the uncommon knowledge that you gain through human connections.”  

Deida Garcia, a recruiter for Starbucks, spoke about the inspiration she drew from her hardworking mother. “I am the daughter of immigrants, first generation,” she said. “My first job was helping my mom as a housekeeper. That’s where I learned my work ethic. I learned the integrity of work, taking pride in your finished product.” From there, Garcia held jobs at Target and Blockbuster before using all the skills she gained to become a recruiter for Starbucks.  

Lance Relicke, VP of Global Brands for Levi’s also made the transition from the front lines to corporate. He noted that in high school and afterward he had worked at Gap, Urban Outfitters, and other stores. He also worked in the warehouses where he gained an understanding of operations. “All of those things were the building blocks to where I am today,” he said.   

After the panel, breakout sessions with company representatives supported the participants in crafting resumes and cover letters, interview practice, and creating a polished LinkedIn profile. Maggie McBennett, VP of HR Business Partners of LinkedIn, said she was excited about the event because she has been a longtime ally to the LGBTQ community, having begun her career at a nonprofit serving LGBTQ youth. “Be as selective about the company you work for as the company you keep as friends,” she advised. “And remember, you don’t need to have a long professional career to have a LinkedIn profile!”  

Nathaniel, a 22-year-old participant shared that he gained valuable insight into the job application and interviewing process as well as inspiration for his career. He said what’s important to him is finding a job where teamwork is valued. “I love teamwork. All for one and one for all,” he said. “I’m looking to work in a place with the same mindset - focus on goal at hand, and put customers first. At the end of the day you can’t have store or company if people aren’t working together.”  

 Gap Inc. is a proud member of the Open to All coalition - a nationwide group of 4,000 businesses large and small across the United States that are taking a public stand against discrimination by keeping their doors Open to All. This year marks the fourth consecutive year of the company is raising awareness and funds during Pride Month for UN Free & Equal, a global campaign of the United Nations Human Rights Office. Gap Inc. recently received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign 2019 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) for the fourteenth consecutive year.  

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