Cultivating diversity in the workplace is at the forefront of challenges that starts-ups face. Creating diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, and even opinions and skill sets is something every business must implement. You need to build a team with diverse perspectives in different backgrounds. Tess Hatch from Bessemer Venture Partners and Jess Mink with Auth0 lend me their expertise in today’s episode of Simple Leadership. We’ll cover everything from hiring the right people, what investors wished managers knew more of, and being an ally and sponsor.
Tess Hatch earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan. She went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering from Stanford. She started her career as the head of product and mission management at SpaceX. She is now a venture capitalist specializing in frontier tech and serves on the board for many businesses in the industry.
Jess Mink holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University. She’s worked at Amazon as a software development engineer and has worked with various startups over the last 26 years. She is now the Sr. Direction of Engineering at Auth0. Her goal is to help build teams who empower their employees and solve real-world problems.
When you’re looking at forming a company you need to be mindful of hiring people around you to complement your skillset. If you’re the ‘tech person’—hire someone who is business-minded. Your goal is to build a team that has deep expertise and understanding of the market. Of course, how you fill out your team depends on the industry you’re in.
You are cultivating the right—or wrong—culture with every person you hire.
Every single person you add to the mix needs to be carefully selected. You need to balance technological expertise with communication skills and emotional development. It’s important to define and create guidelines for your company culture from day one. This provides you a clear definition of the type of people who will fit and enhance your culture.
Keep listening as we discuss issues startups need to address, scaling your business, learning what your customers want, and managing engineers.
Are you ready to be a better manager and leader? As a leader in your organization or industry striving to build healthy teams, you also need to take advantage of mentorship and learning opportunities. Work with a high-level executive coach. Be a part of a CEO group. It’s a difficult and lonely job, and these groups know the issues you face. You can help each other through challenging team dynamics amongst other problems to solve.
Tess recommends building a personal team of advisors—specific people you reach out to for guidance in specific areas.
Find 3-6 people you look up to as mentors in the industry (maybe even past professors, previous employers, etc.) and specifically ask them to be a mentor for you. Build yourself a network that you can lean on as you continue to learn about your industry and the struggles you face.
Jess gives a sage piece of advice—know the struggle you may face before entering a particular position. Go to slack channels or online forums about the problems people in management face and what their solutions are. As you begin your management position, you’re already aware of some of the challenges you’ll face—and equipped to deal with them.
Not only do you need to balance different perspectives and skill sets in your senior leadership slots, but you need to build a diverse workplace. You will destroy your company if you call up your friends and build a team with similar interests and mindsets. You must be sure to encourage different voices to speak up.
Make inclusion and diversity a metric that you track.
Jess and Tess agree that the easiest way to create diversity is to set a goal (i.e. 50/50 male/female split across the company) and give yourself a timeline for hiring to reach that goal (2 years). Take the goals you’ve set and eliminate bias in your interview and hiring process. So what does that mean?
Be flexible and schedule interviews when people are available:
Work around the hours of their current job—most people have to job-search while still employed somewhere else.
Don’t set interview times for when a candidate may be having to deal with childcare issues.
Make sure job-postings are available and marketed to people of different gender, race, socioeconomic backgrounds, and so forth.
The more you hire historically underrepresented groups, the more they will feel comfortable to apply for and work with your team. Make your workplace culture one that is inclusive and strives to integrate different backgrounds and perspectives.
Have you heard of ‘Sponsoring’ before? You choose someone to invest in and mentor—someone you trust enough to put your career and credibility on the line for. You choose to advocate for someone and give them speaking slots or nominate them for a job. Think critically and invest your time in someone different from you.
In doing so, you are helping to diversify the people being promoted to management positions.
On the flip side, if you’re a person who is looking to be sponsored there are a few things you can do. Firstly, find someone willing to mentor you. Make it clear to your management what your goals are and where you want to go. Articulate your accomplishments humbly and always be in the eye of those able to promote you.
For more wisdom from two experts in the industry, be sure to listen to the whole episode of Simple Leadership now!