Recruiting, Retaining and Leading Diverse Teams

The fourth We Shape Tech event in Zurich was dedicated to recruit, retain and lead diverse teams. This was our first event that was explicitly open for a diverse audience, so everyone was very pleased that the number of male participants on this evening was correspondingly high. We listened to representatives from Siroop, Southpole and Google Switzerland who shared fruitful insights with us. The event was hosted by Google Switzerland and moderated by Daniel Frei.

Startup views and challenges by Siroop
Isa Steiner, CTO at Siroop, was the first key note speaker on stage. Siroop needed to recruit more than 100 people in just one year and hence was forced to hire diversely. Diversity for them is a topic that is more about integrating people with different experiences such as age, race or sexual orientation than about integrating men and women in the workplace. Siroop aims at hiring people that share a common mindset and are highly intrinsically motivated.

Siroop’s key values are transparency and tolerance such as flat hierarchies. They value experience over age and are striving to embrace change. Currently Siroop has about 20% women working in  tech, whereas the overall diversity ratio is 2/3 men and 1/3 women, which might be partly due todifferent working models that Siroop supports.

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Diversity is a must for South Pole Group
Renat Heuberger, CEO at the South Pole Group, has no other choice than being diverse. The business of the South Pole Group is to clean up the supply chain and to save our planet from the undergoing climate change. He works in a global business that includes working with big as well as very small companies. The skill chain include people from political, financial, tech, legal and communication departments in a very international setting with offices scattered across the globe. Therefore diversity is a reality and a must for him.

Southpole defines itself as a social enterprise. It has to deal with cultural differences and its CEO believes that hiring bright people helps to bridge across cultures.

Complex systems require diverse teams as well as joint forces of smart brains.

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Diversity is healthy for better products – Google
Eric Tholomé, Google Switzerland’s site lead, told us that Google favors diversity and wants to create awareness that there is still work ahead. Currently about 19% of the developers and 31% of Google’s staff are female for instance. That is not enough to him and Google is investing a lot of resources into improving the diversity rate in all areas due to the fact that diverse teams are building better products.

Google’s current conviction is that smart people can be found and hired everywhere. They still want to hire the best people so the bar just cannot be lowered in order to raise diversity. Currently a lot of effort is being carried out to make the staff more divers. There is a Googler-in-Residence Program in place that helps to raise the share of black computer scientists and a lot of regular internships are offered. Check out Google’s diversity site if you like to learn more about Google’s diversity stats.

Google fosters a bottom-up culture in conjunction with a speaking-up culture. The daily work is organized in groups and people are pretty used to debate topics. Conflicts with respect to ideas are considered helpful and fundamental. But “at Google we are discussing ideas not people” according to Eric Tholomé. An internal training program to avoid unconscious bias has been raised back in 2013.

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With a lot of food for thought, the guests and speakers  went on for networking and Apéro. A warm thank you to all speakers, participants and especially to Google Switzerland for the invitation into their premises.

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