Adam Wand, Visa’s head of global public policy, has been an avidspin class cyclist for about five years. But three months ago he decided to invest in a road bike, setting his sights on riding the annual AIDS/LifeCycle, the epic 545-mile cycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles that raises funds and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Along with nine other Visa employees, he’ll clock about 80 miles a day over the course of a week, starting on June 4. Here, he shares his reasons for taking part in the event, along with his involvement in the LGBT community at Visa.
What motivated you to join the ride this year?
Adam Wand: As a senior leader at a company that’s so intrinsically part of the San Francisco Bay Area, I felt like we really needed to be involved in an event like this. I’m the executive sponsor of the LGBT group at Visa (Visa Pride) and the LGBT community is part of the fabric of San Francisco. It’s important to show our commitment to ending the epidemic of HIV and providing the resources for caring for those who have unfortunately contracted HIV already. That effort links to Visa’s values as well—we talk about acceptance. Well, that describes our business and it’s also what diversity and inclusion are all about.
Besides that, it is a great fitness opportunity! You work very hard. I’ve done about 1,500 miles of training. This past weekend, 200 of us left at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning and rode 80 miles north of San Francisco, then camped overnight and rode back. The actual event is colloquially known as the “love bubble” because there’s such a diverse group of people participating but everyone comes with such an optimistic and inclusive perspective. There’s never any hostility or tension, even though people are stressed out and tired. Everyone remembers why they are there.
What has it been like preparing for the race with your co-workers?
AW: At Visa, we are a very distributed company with people working from all over the world. We often work in cross-functional groups in a virtual way. Employees who have never met before come together to resolve complex problems. And that is really what we are doing here as Visa’s team prepares for the race. There are members who have never met one another, but we have become close in a virtual way and next Friday we will join to ride 545 miles together. Organizing that, promoting Visa, promoting diversity—it has been very effective.
What other initiatives has Visa Pride been a part of?
AW: The group was instrumental in driving Visa forward as a supporter of marriage equality in the United States. As a company, we signed the amicus brief, the legal brief to the Supreme Court supporting the decision. Our campaign aligned with Visa’s “accepted here” campaign, using “Love. Accepted everywhere” with two hands in front of the pride flag. You couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman–that was the point. It was one of the company’s most successful online contributions. It sent a strong message of Visa’s commitment on those issues.
On a less happy note, I was part of a delegation that travelled to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando at the end of last year. As a group and as a company, we laid down flowers to memorialize the victims of the mass shooting that took place there. We also provided support services to Visa employees who were affected.
We saw in good times and bad times that the company and our group was committed to diversity and LGBT inclusion. The strength of the LGBT community in the Bay Area is pretty unique. The history of riots, the Harvey Milk legacy, it’s very strong here. We want to stand up and be a part of that.