Action meets impact: How local companies are working toward a more diverse workforce

by Joyce Famakinwa
October 10, 2018

It’s easy for a company to claim that diversity is valued at their workplace, but what comes next? How do they actually walk the walk? For companies that make up the SoCal tech scene, putting action behind these sentiments — and making concerted efforts to build a more inclusive work environment —takes focused intention, day in and out.

We wanted to find out what local companies are doing to affect real change. From meet-ups to blind hiring processes, here’s what they had to say:

 

Versus Systems team
photo via Versus Systems

Playing for the love of the game is great, but who doesn’t love prizes? Versus Systems’ platform helps gamers win real-life prizes, including goodies from their favorite brands, downloadable content and event tickets. Head of People Amanda Amour said that at Versus Systems, diversity starts with advocating for applicants who might not have the traditional tech background. The company’s blind hiring system gives them a pool of candidates that make this possible.

 

Tell us about the diversity initiatives you are currently working on and the impact you have seen.

We’ve valued diversity in all forms from the very beginning, whether that diversity be background, education, professional or experience. We are who we are because of consciously choosing to hire based upon our values: community, curiosity, empathy and diversity, rather than as a result of the traditional metrics applied to applicants like school, degree or following the expected path to obtain a position.

Our initiatives include long-term plans, such as attending events specifically designed for non-traditional talent and an eventual resource for internships and mentorship. We also engage in short-term programs with immediate success, such as “blind hiring,” where I review applications with no name or photo attached. This makes a big difference for finding talent based on the content of the resume, rather than the presumptions that come with a particular name or image.

 

A lot of tech companies insist on only hiring engineers with computer science degrees, and that’s never been the way we look at talent.”

Can you talk about an accomplishment that wouldn't have been possible if your company didn't value diversity?

One of the best concrete examples illustrating how much diversity has strengthened our team is our transition from Ruby to Elixir. A lot of tech companies insist on only hiring engineers with computer science degrees, and that’s never been the way we look at talent. Our developers are former — and current — musicians, mathematicians, economics majors.

We brought on Desmond Bowe, our head of engineering, as a part-time contractor, and he quickly proved his value beyond that position. Desmond has a pretty non-traditional story, as an economics major and musician. He started coding because he thought it would be something enjoyable to pick up. He came in to teach the staff Elixir and help with the transition, but his flexibility, adaptability to change, and natural curiosity translated beautifully to what we need as a small company: someone who thinks along many disciplines to create something amazing. Now we’re a full-on Elixir shop, and one of the only companies that exist who can make that claim.

 

System1 team
photo via system1

System1’s team of data scientists wants to look beyond a consumers’ surface-level search engine activity and dive deeper into the insights they might reveal. Their platform utilizes pre-targeting algorithms to help companies gain data-based insights into consumer intent. Susana Min, System1’s technical recruiter, explained that gender disparity is a key issue in tech — and that the company has made hiring women a priority.

 

Tell us about the diversity initiatives you are currently working on and the impact you have seen.

We believe that diversity is something that is necessary for us to continue being successful as a company. We have partnered up with various organizations rooted in diversity in order to further our recruiting efforts in that realm. We have also held meet-ups and will continue to host events with these organizations in order to keep reaching out to talent from different communities.

 

Having more of a female presence in the tech industry is an international issue, and we recognize our responsibility as a tech company in furthering those efforts.”

Can you talk about an accomplishment that wouldn’t have been possible if your company didn’t value diversity?

Having more of a female presence in the tech industry is an international issue, and we recognize our responsibility as a tech company in furthering those efforts. The team itself has come a long way. We now have women in every single department in our company, as well as on our leadership team. Despite our efforts, there is still progress to be made, and we hope to be an example in our field as we continue to grow.

 

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