How to diversify the tech talent pool, according to Revolent’s president
In Nabila Salem’s role as president of Revolent Group, she is responsible for leading on the creation of talent and delivering the business plan, making sure the right people are in the right places and the right processes are in place. Her focus lies in improving and maintaining the company’s three core pillars of culture, strategy and change.
Below, Salem — who is on the Advisory Board of the Information Age Women in IT Summit in New York on March 25th 2020 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel — discusses why improving levels of diversity tech is important and how organisations can go about diversifying their tech talent pool.
But, first, what is Revolent?
The talent creator
Formally, Revolent operated under various different brands. As part of a transformation programme, Salem brought these various businesses and tech academies under the Revolent brand — “a word that combines revolution and talent, which I think perfectly defines what we do,” she said.
“Revolent is not a recruitment business. It’s a talent creator that specialises in creating talent that can thrive in niche technology markets, like Salesforce and ServiceNow.”
The business model focuses on recruiting, cross-training, developing and placing talent in various technology ecosystems, such as the next generation of certified cloud professionals.
Revolent has placed a big focus on providing talent for Salesforce, because of the company’s huge economic potential.
“By 2024, 4.2 million new Salesforce jobs are expected to be created, with approximately $1.2 trillion in new business revenues for the local economies,” Salem explained.
The importance of diversity in tech
It’s simple: diverse teams perform better.
Pointing to the 2008 recession, Salem said that “companies with more (gender) diversity in their workforce and leadership teams, clearly outperformed those companies that were male dominated.”
She added: “Diversity impacts the bottom line, because how can we expect technology to be suitable for all audiences unless the teams involved in producing these technologies are diverse?
“If you look at AI, for example, the lack of diversity within this technology is causing some serious issues, such as racial bias in facial recognition and so on.”
There are many benefits around diversity; innovation, creativity, flexibility, languages and diversity of thought, for example. But, how can organisations diversify the tech talent pool?
Diversify the tech talent pool through inclusion
According to Salem, to achieve true diversity it takes time and effort to change the culture that exists in organisations. “Even with quotas, if the culture isn’t inclusive, you’ll slowly see that the dial will start to move back to where it was,” she said.
Inclusion is not the same as diversity, it’s much harder to achieve. “If you want diversity, the two go hand-in-hand,” Salem continued.
In order to diversify the tech talent pool, companies need to change the way they recruit, where they recruit from and what they expect from the people that are recruiting, “because we all have unconscious bias.
“Once we actually accept that, recognise that and change the way we do things, then we will begin to attract diversity,” Salem advised.
To do this, companies can showcase role models, introduce mentoring programmes or conduct workshops in schools and promote volunteering efforts. These type of activities will inspire people who may not have a career in tech.
There are lots of things that can be done to diversify the talent pool, but there isn’t one magic recipe. Any diversity drive needs inclusion to be ingrained into the culture of the business.
When hiring an employee, some might ask whether they are a ‘culture fit’ within an organisation, but this is reductive; “if you’re trying to attract diversity, everyone will be different and being a ‘fit’ goes against the very definition of diversity in the first place,” said Salem.
“You don’t want everyone to be the same, you want them to be different. And where I’m at now, we embrace our individual differences — that makes us stronger as a team.”
The role model
As part of a wider diversity and inclusion drive, the presence of diverse role models is hugely important, “because it’s very difficult to be who you can’t see,” said Salem.
Highlighting role models, both internally and externally, is needed to showcase the opportunities that are available regardless of gender, ethnicity and background.
Salem, for example, was the youngest woman to be appointed VP at her former company and she was the only senior leader from an ethnic minority background; “I share those stories purposely, because I believe that role models need to share their stories to inspire others to go beyond,” she stated.
“The opportunities are infinite”
When asked on her advice to women who were considering a career in tech, Salem concluded, “go for it.”
“There’s never been a better time to join the industry as a woman, because everyone actually knows that we’re needed.
“Many companies are facing a diversity crisis and while some talk about it as a buzzword, it means that we don’t have to fight for the positions like we used to, when discrimination was openly acceptable.
“Nowadays, companies are actively calling for more women to join and the opportunities are infinite.”