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Working IDEAL’s Independent, Third-Party Review of DataCamp

Oct 2019  · 6 min read

Earlier this year, DataCamp commissioned an independent, third-party review of the events of October 2017, led by Anurima Bhargava, a former Department of Justice official in the Obama administration, and Pamela Coukos from Working IDEAL. Their report also examines the company’s response in the months that followed, and the overall climate and culture at the company.

Working IDEAL is an organization with expertise in fostering inclusive workplaces, diverse talent and fair pay. In addition to a detailed review of company documents, the report is the product of internal and external stakeholder interviews and anonymous online feedback from nearly 100 individuals.

The report in its entirety is here.

The key findings contained in the report are as follows (these are taken verbatim from the full report which is linked to above):

  • After speaking with the current and former DataCamp employees who were involved in or witnessed the October 2017 incident, there is little factual dispute about what happened between the CEO, Jonathan Cornelissen, and Kara Woo, an employee.

  • The incident raises important concerns, including the impact on Ms. Woo who left DataCamp three months later — with the incident being one of the reasons for her departure - and the power dynamic between the male founder and CEO and a newly hired female employee, at a time when few women worked at DataCamp.

  • Many of the statements and allegations on social media are not consistent with what we found to have taken place. The incident falls far short of the more egregious characterizations about what happened.

  • Once Ms. Woo reported her concerns about the incident, Mr. Cornelissen immediately apologized and took responsibility for his actions.

  • DataCamp promptly commissioned an investigation that reached similar conclusions to ours about what happened; we do not think it was appropriate or advisable, however, to have an investor conduct that investigation.

  • We agree with most of the actions DataCamp has taken, but we would have recommended additional steps described in this report.

  • DataCamp’s size and posture as a small but rapidly growing startup company impacted its response.

  • DataCamp’s workplace culture, and the small number of women who worked there in October 2017, provide important context for the incident and the response.

  • Starting in 2018, DataCamp made diversity, equity and inclusion a much higher priority, and has succeeded in increasing the representation of women and people of color at the company.

  • While it is not common to publicly disclose detailed information about workplace complaints to employees, and privacy and other concerns are relevant considerations, DataCamp’s actions were not consistent with key values of the company.

  • While we did not find evidence that the Company’s actions were deliberately misleading, the company made a number of mistakes in how it communicated with stakeholders about the incident and its response.

  • The Company’s approach did not take sufficient account of its existing relationships with instructors, which may have impacted how the company’s response was received.

  • DataCamp has learned from this experience and engaging this external review shows it is committed to improvement, transparency, and building trust.

  • DataCamp’s decision to convene an Instructor Advisory Board is a positive step in rebuilding trust externally that will also benefit the company in providing valuable input from DataCamp instructors.

  • The work DataCamp has done to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace must be continued and expanded.

To elaborate on the first bullet point above, regarding the incident, the factual description by Working Ideal of the 2017 incident (verbatim from the full report) is below:

In Portugal, on the last night of a company work week, many DataCamp employees went to a bar after the company dinner. Mr. Cornelissen and Ms. Woo were dancing together at multiple points during that night. At times, they were dancing face to face; at other times, he was dancing very close behind her. He often placed his hands on her hips while they were dancing. On multiple occasions, Ms. Woo stopped dancing; walked away; changed directions; or went to talk to others. Mr. Cornelissen was on and off the dance floor frequently, talking with employees and drinking at the bar. He came back over to Ms. Woo on the dance floor multiple times and reinitiated contact with her. No one alleged any physical contact outside of the dance floor and, in our discussions, no one described the contact as “groping” or being “groped.”

Again, you may read the report in full here.

In terms of next steps: on October 19th, the IAB will gather to discuss the report and provide the DataCamp Board of Directors (BoD) with their advice on how to best implement the report’s recommendations. They will also advise the DataCamp BoD on Jonathan Cornelissen’s future role with the company. As you know, he has been on a leave of absence since May 1st 2019. We’ll have more information for you as that process moves forward.

We are absolutely committed to putting in place the people and policies necessary to promote a healthy culture at DataCamp—and to make it a rewarding place to work. DataCamp has made great strides in this to date and we are very proud of these steps, but we know there is more we can do to become a more welcoming, diverse, and inclusive place. The report makes a series of recommendations to build upon the great work we’ve done over the past years, and I want you to know that we will be implementing the report recommendations as swiftly as possible.

As always, I'm excited to continue DataCamp’s mission to improve data fluency around the world and to create a data science learning platform and community that is strong, healthy, and inclusive to all.

Martijn Theuwissen, Interim CEO



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