I started this blog as a tool to help anyone interested to become a product manager. I started as an engineer and transitioned to a product manager. As I shifted my career, I did not have a clear idea nor a path on progressing to become an effective PM. I relied on online resources such as LinkedIn and Twitter to help me learn more about product management tips and tricks. These resources helped me a lot to define my career. I want to share all the information that I compiled and hence I started writing this blog.
My plan this week was to blog about product metrics and use an example of Instacart to address the metric interview question. Meanwhile, I am consumed, overwhelmed, and sad from the news this week. Yes, I am talking about the murder of George Floyd’s murder by the four cops in Minnesota and the ensuing vigils and peaceful protests that rocked the world.
The anger, sadness, and the deep emotion shown by the protestors just shook me. Though I will never understand the daily struggles of the Black community, I stand with solidarity with them. Black Lives Do Matter and I believe that standing in the sideline is not an option for anyone.
The tech world has been plagued by the low representation of black workers. Black workers make up 1 or 2 percent of the workforce at several prominent tech companies.
Most of the tech companies and other industries have stood in solidarity with BLM and put out statements denouncing racism and resolve to do better. While statements are a good start, I would like to see companies put more concrete actions to solve the disparity in the hiring process and to boost the representation of black workers in tech companies.
Intel Corporation has done an amazing job at creating initiatives that would boost not just the hiring representation of technical employees from the underrepresented population but they also worked on improving the progression and retention of the employees. Intel has also been named as the best place for Women & Diverse Managers to Work
They created the Intel Global Diversity and Inclusion committee and worked on conspicuously boosting the underrepresentation rate of minorities in tech. In 2019, the published numbers were very impressive. with a 14.6% to 15.8% increase in the underrepresented employee representation from 2018 to 2019.
As an engineer, I started thinking about creating a “best know configuration” or a template that can be created for companies to follow and boost the representation rate of black tech workers. I soon realized that this is an extremely complex task that cannot fit into the “one formula for all” method.
I have instead created a list of SEVEN recommendations or framework based on the success stories of companies such as Intel.
Recommendation 1: Stop virtue signaling and commit to real change
Fundamental changes such as creating initiatives or steps to boost hiring will not happen until the company makes a real commitment to change. Diversity is not a box to check off. As a product manager, you know that a product is destined to fail without a real commitment and funding plan from thee executives. The real action starts with commitment and the real decision-making process.
Recommendation 2: Hire a chief diversity officer
The next step is to hire a chief diversity officer. This person would be tasked to create the Diversity and Inclusion roadmap (D&I) and create a committee to drive the short term and long term actions. The D&I officer is an extremely complex topic and a hard job.
Take Google for example. Miley, former engineer manager from Google said that “It’s a thankless job,” Miley says. “I think at most companies it’s thankless. Danielle Brown (former D&I officer from Google) is a really good example of this. You’re criticized by people for not doing enough, criticized by people for trying to do too much. There will always be a fight for resources, accountability. And when you’re at the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, that makes a lot of people fundamentally uncomfortable. And it just wears on you.”
Recommendation 3: Create a formal D&I Roadmap
The path to driving progress starts with creating a formal roadmap. Think about the product roadmap and north star goals and use a similar template to map out the D&I goals. You should be assessing your current status and then create a three-year plan to boost D&I initiatives.
Recommendation 4: Open forums for employees
D&I initiatives are a hot topic and employees will be vocal for both sides of the argument. Look no further than the LinkedIn townhall on Black Lives Matter in June 2020. The company launched a virtual global town hall to address the nationwide social unrest and discuss D&I initiatives. The meeting quickly degraded similarly to an anonymous comment section with toxic and racial comments permeating the town hall.
“The racism at LinkedIn really came out in the Q&A section!” — Anonymous LinkedIn employee
Create a communication strategy, articulating the leadership commitment to D&I. Share this strategy more than once with your employees via townhall and open forums. Listen to employee feedback. Not all feedback needs to be acted on but employees should understand that their feedback is valued by the company.
Recommendation 5: Training and expectation set for managers
Companies need to create an effective training program for all managers in the organization. You have to update the managers on the D&I initiatives and how coach them to create a well-diversified team. Training should include courses, workshops and 1:1 sessions if needed. These sessions should show examples of the advantages and successes of diversified teams in the tech workplace.
If diversity is, as Rosanna, VP Global Diversity – LinkedIn suggests, a team sport, then organizations need coaches who are excited to be leading squads with players who bring different approaches to the game.
Recommendation 6: Create metrics framework and measurements
There are five different metrics to track for D&I efforts
- Measure the retention level of talent across the underrepresented communities
- Measure the employee representation percentage after applying D&I initiatives compared to a baseline
- Track the promotions and technical leadership pipeline for underrepresented employees compared to the general group
- Measure the total compensation relative to grade levels. Compare financial and non-financial rewards earned by individuals from monitored groups to financial and non-financial rewards earned by individuals who are not members of a monitored group
- Measure the employee engagement scores and compare the scores among different groups.
Recommendation 7: Initiatives to drive STEM awareness at low-income schools
Companies promote volunteer work and several employees enthusiastically participate in such activities. Teaching STEM in schools in lower-income areas should be a prioritized volunteer activity in companies. Companies should provide more tuition scholarships for the HBCU colleges in the nation.
Diversity is the cornerstone of winning teams and companies need to speed up their D&I initiatives. If I was hired as a D&I director then these are the steps that I would initiate.