Thursday, August 12, 2010

Diversity helps when you need to recruit the best

Needing to hire the "best and the brightest" is like motherhood and apple pie. No-one can argue with it. And yet it is harder than you'd think for many companies. Great prospective employees can pick and choose and they make their decisions as often on soft issues like who they'd work with/for and what the culture of the company is like as they do on hard issues like project, title and pay.

At FirstRain we work hard to create a fun work environment and to be innovative in our culture - like our "no" vacation policy (not literally... you can read about it here), we certainly like to have fun as a team and diversity is one of our strengths - our employees come in all flavors and colors and we have our fair share of women.

But what if we were not diverse? How would I go about changing it?

I am on the board of a public company called JDSU. It's a recognized leader in the optical and broadband markets - components, systems, technologies and test & measurement - and it's known for collaborating with it's customers on amazing technology. But it's in an industry that is just not very diverse. Let's face it - men are in the majority in comms.

The comms sector is very hot now with the explosion in bandwidth (all those teenagers on smartphones) and it needs to hire and keep the best engineers at all levels. So I'm thrilled to see that JDSU is setting out to change it's diversity profile so it can have a recruiting advantage. They have set up a new women at work initiative (and like everything else at JDSU it has a TLA - that's a three letter acronym - WAW).

I was at a JDSU board meeting in Germantown Maryland earlier this week and met with the team putting the WAW initiative together to brainstorm through ways to get it off the ground. It looks like it is going to be a lot of fun: mentoring programs, networking events, blogs and tweets about how JDSU is changing... and "women" is just the start... in the end it's all about Inclusion and they hope to put blue prints in place to recruit and retain more minorities too. I had a really fun hour with the group of passionate JDSU women imagining everything they can do to change their culture.

And one of the first things they are doing is getting involved in ABI and sending a team of women down to the Grace Hopper Conference in Atlanta this October. It's a conference for technical women - and a great place to recruit the best and the brightest. JDSU, along with many leading firms in tech, finance and defense, will be there interviewing and making offers during the conference.

If you are a technical woman and you have never been to GHC go! It's the experience of a lifetime. And if you are a technical woman interested in a new job check out JDSU and the other GHC sponsors - or ask me about FirstRain at the conference. I'll be there on a panel, in the technical executive forum and - of course - on the dance floor after the celebration dinner!

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