Attract and retain diverse talent in technology the right way.
E75 Natasha Nurse: The Path To An Interesting Career
Natasha believes the lack of diversity in tech is a systemic issue. Historically people of color were not necessarily encouraged in their early schooling to pursue STEM careers. If Black and Brown people are unaware of the roles and different opportunities available in tech, then they are less likely to pursue these jobs. Natasha can understand why some companies would want their software engineers to have a CS degree. However, she believes it is more important to focus on a candidate's skills and whether they can get the job done. If a job applicant is self-trained and understands how to get the job done, then the educational piece is just a barrier to entry. The apprenticeship model would be a great way to bring people into tech who may not understand the different opportunities available. If implemented properly, there should be a two way sharing of information and innovation that benefits both the organization and the apprentice. Natasha has found the key to retaining diverse talent is to create a fostering and nurturing environment where employees get resources, support and they have a pathway for elevation in their career, as well as the opportunity to innovate.
E74 Andrew DeGarmo: Tech DJs
While the tech industry is still heavily dominated by male staff, Andrew has found that in his current position, finding diverse talent hasn't been much of a hurdle. It helps that he works at a university where there is a diverse selection of students coming through every year. Andrew thinks that the push to remove CS degree requirements for software engineering roles is a good move. There was a time when people needed to be in a university setting to learn about computer science, however that is not the case anymore. An apprenticeship model, for example, would work in tech because it provides hands on experience that is invaluable and often cannot be taught through coursework alone. In order to retain diverse talent, Andrew would advise companies to be upfront about their views and policies on diversity. The company culture and hiring processes should reflect this commitment so that every employee is on the same page.
E73 Brandon White: Tech Entrepreneur
Brandon thinks finding diverse talent in tech is challenging mainly because the industry is predominantly comprised of males. When building teams, he has actively recruited women because they often bring a different perspective to the group. While he believes the best applicant for the job should always be hired, he realizes that in many cases, the best person isn't getting an opportunity to apply because they may not know about the position. In today's world, Brandon does not see a traditional college degree as a necessity to become a software engineer. How someone learns their skills is of little importance if the applicant can demonstrate their aptitude. An apprenticeship, for example, is a great way to build experience and learn practical skills that can’t be taught in a classroom. Brandon’s has found that there are three major factors to retaining diverse staff. First, employers should appreciate and recognize their staff for the contributions they add to an organization. Secondly, employees should have flexibility in their work schedule, where the emphasis is on getting the job done not working from 9 to 5. Finally, everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage for their work.
E72 L. Michelle Smith: Rockstar Leader
Finding diverse talent is not a challenge, but many companies just don't know where to look. From L. Michelle’s experience, the middle of the leadership pipeline is spewing out overqualified and high performing women of all backgrounds that can be easily recruited. She believes that the current systems in place to join the workforce are ingrained with implicit bias. It is exciting to see large software companies begin to break the paradigm (ex. required CS degrees) and find new ways to be more inclusive. L. Michelle has found that many companies get shortsighted when they think of filling the pipeline with diverse candidates for entry level roles only. Add seats to the board of directors and fill them with people of color. Then move down in the organization and continue diversifying. Once your leadership team is set, then it is more likely that apprenticeships and other programs will be successful. To retain diverse talent, she believes the key is to focus on women and other marginalized groups. Studies have shown that women of color, specifically Black women, are double outsiders in companies simply because of their chromosomes and melanin. Leaders in organizations need to go over and beyond their comfort level to make sure that talented people of marginalized groups are not overlooked.
E71 Erin Orstrom: Confident Candidates Required!
Erin believes that finding diverse talent doesn't have to be challenging for companies. There are plenty of people from non traditional backgrounds that are hungry and curious to break into the tech industry. However, many of these candidates are intimidated from applying to positions when the job description is looking for a “magical unicorn” candidate with unrealistic experience. She has found that a computer science degree will teach the theory behind computers, but it is not necessary for entry level software roles. There are alternative methods (bootcamp programs, online resources, etc..) to learn the necessary skills and help gain the hands on experience to start working in tech. Erin thinks that an apprenticeship pattern can be applied to technical roles if a company has a culture and values to support the program. She believes that in order to recruit and retain diverse talent, companies need to establish a culture that listens and adapts to their employees needs. People should feel encouraged to grow both professionally and personally within their workplace.
E70 Pariss Athena: #BlackTechTwitter
Pariss believes it is difficult to find diverse talent when you do not personally have a diverse network. However, recruiters can find this talent if they are willing to branch out, network, and engage with people outside of their communities. She thinks that removing CS degree requirements from software roles is the equitable and right thing to do. Many people of color do not have the opportunity of going to college, but can still learn the skills necessary to be successful as a developer through alternative routes. Pariss is a fan of implementing apprenticeship programs within tech companies. It is a great way for someone who is just entering the industry to learn how the company operates, what tech stacks are used, and how teams collaborate. To retain diverse talent, Pariss would advise companies to survey how their staff feels about the current inclusivity and equity practices. Then work on making actionable steps towards constant improvement. Any policies, practices, or procedures that are implemented must be rooted in the foundation of the company and its culture.
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