"Diversity In Tech Needs Advocates. That’s My Role At Karat."
Below is an article originally written by Portia Kibble Smith at PowerToFly Partner Karat, and published on December 4, 2018. Go to Karat's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Why I joined Karat
I met Mo Bhende, one of the co-founders of Karat, when he was in business school at Wharton. At the time, I was about 20 years into a career advising companies on how to recruit and retain diverse talent. Mo and I stayed in touch after he began his career at Microsoft. When he and Jeff Spector decided to start Karat, they shared with me their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They wanted it to be an integral part of the company from the beginning. I've observed that the companies that succeed in creating diverse and inclusive teams do so early on -- yet this is rare. Usually this focus comes much later.
Mo and Jeff aimed to create a technical interviewing solution that enabled companies to interview more and eliminate the barriers that previously stood in the way of diverse candidates -- like resume bias. They also wanted to ensure that their teams were diverse in ethnicity, gender, experiences, age, sexual orientation, geography, education, and more.
We've created an inclusive working environment and culture
I've done MBA and executive recruiting for dozens of companies and advised them on their D&I initiatives. This experience helps shape our programs and strategies at Karat. Our team members have an appreciation for the insight I can provide to clients as I've seen approaches to recruiting and retaining diverse talent change over the decades at major firms like Xerox, IBM, and Sprint. Amassing decades of experience, I'm probably one of the oldest team members, yet it doesn't feel that way.
We all believe that diversity in experiences and backgrounds makes us richer and more creative in how we innovate to create a better way to do something that's always been done -- interviewing. Advice to my mature counterparts here: Age is what you make it. It's important to support yourself with thought leaders young and old.
Equality, access, and opportunity for all are core to Karat culture. And it shows. For one, geographic location isn't a limitation. I live in Kansas City and Karat is headquartered in Seattle. We have employees from New York to San Francisco and our network of Interview Engineers work from anywhere in the world. Even though I am far away from many of my colleagues at times, we stay connected. It never feels like we are separated from the larger group.
Real Talk: Diversity in Tech
When advising companies on D&I strategies, I've noticed a common thread in companies that are most successful: they really listen to the underrepresented minorities who are truly impacted by having -- or not having -- a diverse and inclusive company and culture. What better way to find out why diversity in tech remains a challenge than to talk with the people affected? So, at Karat, I was able to create a venue to hear from and share the voices of underrepresented minorities in tech through our event series "Real Talk: Diversity in Tech."
We began this event series with Snap in Los Angeles in late 2017. Since that time we've partnered with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Indeed, Convene, American Express, and WeWork. In 2019, we're looking forward to partnering with Dropbox, Microsoft, and more tech leaders that share our vision and understand the importance of making these voices heard at our "Real Talk" events.
Leaders in talent acquisition, D&I, and software engineering attend to listen, engage, and be an part of the change that can ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be a part of this industry. When they leave the event, they're armed with knowledge that will help them start and be a part of conversations that can lead to change.
Why I've stayed at Karat
At Karat, we strive to be good to our employees and our candidates. I deeply believe humanity and fairness matter in the workplace, and make it possible to create a strong company and culture. We help our clients apply these same principles. We're able to help them create a more inclusive recruiting approach, capable of creating a diverse talent pipeline. We often advise clients to interview everyone who applies for a software engineering role; don't create limitations around your "targeted school" or "current company" list. Great candidates can be found everywhere and could be hiding in plain sight. At the end of the day companies want the best software engineers who can do excellent work no matter where they come from.
We've only just begun
There is plenty of work to do in the diversity and inclusion in tech. A day doesn't go by without a company being exposed for the results of a non-inclusive culture and a homogenous environment. But trust me, there have been improvements in the last few decades.
I stay at Karat because of our commitment to change the complexion of the technical teams – both as software engineers and leaders by helping our clients create inclusive hiring strategies that help them hire candidates with most potential and greatest ability to perform on the job. It may take time, but openness, focus, and determination will get us there.
I thought about writing this blog piece like one of those quizzes that used to be on the back pages of Seventeen and Cosmo where each question would offer several answers of varying point levels and you'd pick one answer per question, tally up your points at the end, and match your score to one of several possible results.
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