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!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mark Hurd’s personal version of the Genesis story

How can this happen... again! This time it's a world-class CEO (Mark Hurd from HP) abruptly resigning because, during a sexual harassment investigation, HP finds he falsified expense reports to hide his relationship with a marketing contractor.

Superb talent, leadership, success, the ability to move mountains and make money at the same time - brought down by desire. He saved a great company and got it back on track - and was the hero of Wall St and yet the HP board today must be banging their heads against the wall hoping the pain will stop.

Can you imagine the conversation in the board room. The GC would present the findings. Stunned silence. A few "you must be f**king kidding me" type comments. The instant knowledge that there's no way this won't get out - especially given HP's recent history of leaks and cover ups (remember Patricia Dunn's resignation less than 4 years ago?). The cold pit of realization that this means an ugly press release, embarrassing questions from the press, yet another dent to the great HP name.

Then one board member probably sighed and said "I'll talk to Mark, he'll know what he has to do". Other board members would chime in "If you want me to follow up with him afterwards let me know"... at that point it's all about getting through the pain fast. And then a few clenched jaws as they realize they have to do another CEO search - always hard, and especially so for HP (remember Carly and the fallout there?).

Since this started with a harrassment lawsuit (well maybe it didn't start there, "it" started earlier, but the spotlight came on with the lawsuit), now watch to see if they settle or fight it in court. The investigation found no sexual harrassment (so maybe she is just pissed off) but they'll have to fight it or pay her to go away.

I don't judge - every human is fallible - but the endless playing out of the Adam and Eve story in our species is not rational. But sex never is.

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