How Diversity Drives Innovation at These Seattle Tech Companies

by Quinten Dol
August 22, 2019

Every company under the sun likes making the right noises about diversity. But what does real diversity and inclusion look like in action at a successful technology company?

We wanted to go deeper than the usual corporate references to vaguely defined business benefits. For this, we asked two Seattle tech companies to fill us in on how their inclusion efforts have affected their work, and how they ensure that all voices are heard within their workforce.

 

drift diversity and inclusion seattle tech
photo via drift

Climate crisis got you down? Us too. But hope can strike anywhere — like when you discover that Seattle startup Drift is a thing. The company’s complex software cuts expensive middlemen out of the electrical grid, connecting households and businesses directly with renewable energy sources and disrupting energy networks in all the right ways.

CTO Ed McKenzie explained how the company’s diverse workforce is having a tangible impact on Drift’s business. 

 

How have diverse teams helped shape a specific project or business decision? 

Drift’s mission is to provide clean energy to everyone, everywhere. We need a diverse team to reach that goal — the more people we have in our company speaking to the needs of different groups of people, the more we can build our product to serve as many people as possible. A specific example of this is that we have an engineer on our team with technical expertise and cultural competence around disabilities, and her advocacy and skills have made web accessibility a high priority at Drift.

 

We find power in our diversity...”

How does your company ensure that employees from a diverse range of backgrounds are included in making key business decisions?

We find power in our diversity — this is one of our company values. At Drift, we have built processes that give our team members avenues to propose projects at any level or department in the company, and to receive the support and resources to make those projects move forward. This process is informed by having a company culture in which people are encouraged to be genuine, critical and empathetic. That comes from clearly defined — and continually and collaboratively refined — company values, hiring people who embody those values and empowering people from all levels to lead.

 

getty images seattle tech diversity and inclusion
photo via getty images

Seattle-based Getty Images is one of the world’s leading creators and distributors of still imagery, photography, video and music. Over the years, the company has increasingly focused on how it represents people from a variety of cultures, genders and ages, and acknowledged its responsibility to positively influence how they are seen and represented.

Vice President of Software Engineering Ian Thomas highlighted the importance of Getty’s internal diversity in achieving this goal. 

 

How have diverse teams helped shape a specific project or business decision?

Getty Images is committed to empowering our teams to positively impact our customers, which requires a deep understanding of those customers and the methods we can use to help them accomplish their goals. To that end, we consistently ensure that our teams reflect the diversity of our global customer base. For example, our tech team — diverse in background, experience and skillset — recently collaborated to develop a mechanism enabling our customers to filter content showing unretouched imagery, taking advantage of existing content that may not otherwise have been found. By coming together, they adapted and found ways to bring the feature to market quickly.

 

Our managers actively coach on opportunities and expectations...”

How does your company ensure that employees from a diverse range of backgrounds are included in making key business decisions?

At a team level, we strive to make data-driven decisions aimed at helping to solve real customer problems—which means we need everyone to contribute their unique understanding. By making our data more widely available and empowering everyone to champion solutions, we ensure that every employee feels encouraged to impact business decisions in a meaningful way. Breaking down problems is key to that effort, as is hiring to enable strong collaboration within a Lean-Agile iterative environment. Our managers actively coach on opportunities and expectations within this environment, building on the variety of strengths our diverse employee set brings.

 

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