Episode 29: Championing Diversity and Making Waves in Interior Design at Wayfair

Hello listeners, and welcome back to Tech Forward! My guest this week is Angela Belt, Senior 3D Visual Stylist at Wayfair. Having graduated from Howard University with a degree in Fine Arts, Angela has over ten years of interior design experience including extensive experience styling for print, online publications, and video.  With a keen eye for what is on trend and a passion for interior design, she has styled shoots for ElleDecor, HGTV, AphroChic, and Maison et Objet in Paris. We discussed her transition into the world of tech through her role at Wayfair, and the initiatives she has championed to support the company’s diversity recruiting efforts.

Though she initially saw herself forging a career in politics, Angela took a hard pivot into the world of art and design during her sophomore year of college. After graduation, she took a position with the furniture company Room and Board, which essentially served as a ten-year crash course on not only floor planning and drafting, but also everything required in terms of building codes and permits, and how to design a room with an eye for profit margins. Angela also spent 8 of those 10 years freelancing at her sister’s company, Aphrochic, where she became the creative director and interior stylist. During that time, she worked on REMIX: Decorating with Culture, Objects and Soul, released by Penguin Random House in 2013.

Voted a top tech company by the online community Built in Boston, Wayfair is, in Angela’s words, “on the cutting edge of where things are going” in the world of interior design and home furnishings. Angela works with a team of 3D artists and stylists who use models and talented graphic designers to enhance the photo studio process. These models give the stylists much more creative freedom than a traditional 2D photoshoot, which can be expensive and time consuming. While Angela says entering the tech sector has required her to “learn an entirely new language… I have the background knowledge to know what makes sense in an image, aside from just looking good.” There are cultural differences as well: interior design is a sphere that values the longevity of a career, and expects people to cultivate their skills over a longer time period, whereas tech jobs focus more on the skills people learn in school and apply right away.

Within 3 months of joining the company, Angela had the opportunity to champion diversity initiatives for Wayfair, when she was asked to recruit at her alma mater. “It was exciting to me to know that Wayfair wanted talent from a historically black college [...] It’s part of a larger push, not just a one time thing.” Internally, Angela is an active member of a group for African American employees to network and build a community. She stresses the importance of having members of underrepresented groups in leadership roles: “It meant a lot to me at Room and Board that I had an African American mentor, and two African American bosses. Seeing those people advance to leadership positions let me know I had a place in the company.”

If you’d like to get in touch with Angela you can find her on Instagram, or see examples of her work on her website. Angela, thank you so much for coming onto the show and sharing your story. Thank you also to all of my listeners for tuning in, sharing the show, and leaving reviews. See you next week!


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