You want long-term success? Diversify. That’s usually financial advice, but the corporate world understands it applies in a much broader scope.
I remember my first mandated corporate diversity class — we learned all the reasons it made good business sense to be diverse and learned about the law as it related to discrimination and the workplace. We had it pounded into our head that not only was it the law, it was a Good Thing.
Years later, I work in one of the most diverse offices I can imagine.
Over half my immediate co-workers (all US-based) are female, and over half are not from the US originally. Those that are come from a variety of different backgrounds. This diversity isn’t limited to developers, but carries into managerial positions as well. And, we aren’t just a US shop! Reporting into our organization are employees in Ireland and India in addition to the US.
It can be very challenging to handle this level of diversity. You try planning a team-building event for a team like this. Just finding a menu everyone can agree on is tricky enough! Socially, people tend to cluster, which can make for cliques in the workplace based around ethnic background. It can be difficult to get people to communicate outside their comfort zones. Managers have to be able and willing to communicate in many different styles, knowing their words are interpreted differently depending on the background of the person hearing them. Team members have to be patient in their communications as well, as often two people discuss an idea in a language (English) which is native to neither of them.
The payoff is of course incredible. I sometimes take it for granted, but I shouldn’t. I know that every problem is going to be approached from several different angles. I know that we have near 24-hour coverage due to our global presence. I know that even a trivial conversation is a chance to open my eyes to something amazing that I didn’t know about another culture. I’ve had more kinds of tea than I ever thought possible (and I barely even like tea!), eaten pastries from India garnished with silver foil, had the rules of Cricket explained to me (a couple times), watched with amusement as a co-worker from China peeled grapes at lunch, laughed as Russian and Irish co-workers argued over whiskey versus vodka, eaten food at restaurants I’d have never thought to visit, and more. The world comes to visit me at work, and I appreciate it every day.
It is with this background that I approach the stories you see periodically about lack of diversity at EMC, and it frustrates and angers me.
So, a few weeks back, I made a point of beginning to talk and read more about diversity, inclusion, and marginalization with my co-workers at EMC. The results gave me a lot of food for thought, and that (of course) means blog posts.
So stay tuned for a series of posts relating to the diverse workplace of 2008 at EMC. I promise in advance not to spout the corporate lines.