Mina Radhakrishnan, a co-founder of Different and First Head of Product at Uber, once stated, “When only certain kinds of people get a slice of the pie, the same kinds of products get built.”
The 280 Group, a product management organization with over two decades of experience in the industry, recently hosted an ‘Ask Me Anything’-style discussion titled “How Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Empowers Your Products and Team for Success.” Moderated by Rina Vernovskaya, Chief Executive Officer of 280 Group, the panel focused on some of the digital world’s central questions.
Hector Enriquez, a product management leader from our New York studio, was on hand to discuss his experience in the tech industry. During his part of the discussion, Hector highlighted the importance of Cognizant Softvision creating a workplace where all associates can bring their most authentic selves to work while providing opportunities for everyone to thrive.
The Importance of Being Represented
Coming from a Fortune 500 company, Hector knows that international clients “want assurance that we understand their regional segments—what better way to do that than to have that population represented on the client-facing team?” In his experience, this improves overall communication, builds trust, and improves delivery times. In his words, “we better understand not only those we are supporting from a client perspective but also the end-users because we have people from those same segments of the population right there on the team.”
That said, “diversity is not just skin deep,” and there is a lot to be told about considering disability when it comes to creating a diverse team. During one section of the Q&A, Hector shared how his impediment around viewing specific colors once allowed him to offer a different perspective on a project with a client. This served as a reminder of the importance of considering the needs of those among us who live with disabilities.
The Recruitment Challenge
When it comes to finding those diverse candidates to add to our teams, Hector offered this advice: it starts with you. By taking the time to volunteer with HR and helping them promote certain events like career conferences, university job fairs, and especially student workshops, he was able to present himself to prospective employees as an example of a person from an underrepresented population who has made a name for themselves in his industry. Hector believes that “participating within affinity groups, and just getting to speak on behalf of your profession is a way to motivate people who see themselves in you and will one day knock on your door and say ‘I want to do what you’re doing.'”
Understanding the Finer Points of DEI
Hector expressed concern that many of us often get lost in the many hazy definitions for diversity, equity, and inclusion. For the sake of clarity in both mission and practice, he provided the following infographic to help illustrate these concepts.
Image Source: https://dei.extension.org/
Hector’s main focus in past roles has been diversity and the numbers surrounding that goal. Inspired by his undergraduate experience where he found little to no diversity in the student population, when he noticed these trends in the corporate world, Hector knew it was time to push things forward. By returning to his alma mater and actively recruiting underrepresented peoples, he has created a pipeline to corporate America and exposed these young people to opportunities that weren’t within their grasp initially.
It’s only in the last two decades that Hector has noticed a shift toward diversity, equity, and inclusion as active concerns within the corporate recruiting world. “We have to be more forward-thinking and thoughtful around creating those opportunities in a manner that helps to level the playing field.”
Changing for the Future
As the panel drew to a close, the participants were asked about their views on dealing with unconscious bias and the dangerous shortcuts that can create in both corporate and product-based thinking. Hector’s solution? “I would encourage you to have conversations with people that you typically don’t have conversations with on subjects you don’t typically talk about.” He believes that we can create new relationships through this openness and curiosity, deepen our understanding of each other, and help everyone feel like they truly belong in their work community.
We are left with a crucial question—do we want to keep building the same kinds of products? If your team’s goal is to appeal to more market segments and bring broader innovation and success to your product, then you need a more diverse product management team. With more identities, backgrounds, and experiences represented on your team, you can understand more user perspectives and solve more problems. You’ll be able to launch more products by teams who can understand how the world, and the myriad of people in it, will receive them.
Check out the complete discussion here.