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Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion: A box ticking exercise or a huge benefit for tech businesses?


I’ve worked in the Tech Recruitment Industry for over 21 years and in that time I’ve seen huge changes; changes that have had profound impact not only on the way people are recruited but also in the way people think about the workplace and their roles within them.

Technology has driven many of these changes of course, but other, perhaps more subtle, things have also found their way into the day-to-day lives of human resources and hiring managers within businesses of all shapes and sizes. One such change is ‘Diversity and Inclusion’.

Go back fifteen or so years and the words ‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion’ were simply not heard in a recruitment context. For many it was seen as a liberal idea that was only taken seriously by public sector organisations. 
Today though, not only is it a legal requirement, but more and more companies are tuning in to the fact that a clear and robust policy on diversity and inclusion can have major business benefits. But is this the case for every tech business? 

How seriously do people take this? Are Manchester based tech businesses leading the way? Do people understand and see the real benefits for their organisations? How can we all do more to embrace Diversity and Inclusion? 
In my role as Client Solutions Director for Oscar I am in contact with a large number of Manchester-based tech business leaders, influencers and ambassadors and I wanted to find out from some of them what challenges they face when it comes to embracing, promoting and delivering a truly diverse and inclusive business culture.

For this, the first in a series of blog posts I’ll be writing over the coming weeks and months, I spoke to Dawn Sherwood, Programme Director at Intechnica, a specialist tech business that help companies to optimise their websites and cloud-based systems. Her job entails building teams from the ground up and she has worked in IT and Tech for 20+ years.

I started by asking her what Diversity meant to her. “Diversity is everyone,” she said. “It’s not just one thing to me; it is an opportunity for us as a group to grow with people with different perspectives, ideas and backgrounds”.
Intechnica has grown from 50 to 80 staff in just the last six months which is impressive, especially if you consider how competitive the Manchester tech market is right now. Dawn put this rapid growth down to being truly diverse in their recruitment approach. 

“We do some direct recruitment and we also work with a select few specialist tech recruitment agencies. We always look for people with a mix of skills, ideas and experience, regardless of background and always ask the question: “What can this person bring to Intechnica?”

“Tech is moving so quickly,” she continued, “so you cannot afford as a business to stagnate. Our people, our clients and ultimately our business, benefit from having a variety of experience and skills which help us to grow. Everyone has a voice.” 

For Dawn, the biggest barrier to diversity in the tech sector is the sub-conscious bias people have, based on their own background and a lack of understanding of what diversity and inclusion really is.  
“Age discrimination was tackled many years ago by not asking people how old they are in an interview or an application,” she explained. “I remember when this was a new thing and felt unusual. Now it is the norm and we accept the belief that age is not a barrier or factor for someone’s ability to perform a job, the same way that people eventually accepted the world was spherical. But it will still take time before Diversity is accepted as ‘the norm’”. 
Dawn is also cautious of making it mandatory for companies to publish data on Diversity. “I would ask what the benefit of doing this is. Nobody wants to be a statistic or part of a box-ticking exercise. If I were looking for a new role, I would want to be recruited based on my ability to perform and do the job and I think everyone feels the same.”

I then asked whether she felt Manchester based businesses were doing enough to embrace Diversity and Inclusion? “I deal with a lot of organisations in Manchester and experience first hand different client cultures. Manchester is in a good place generally; however, I think we can always improve. I see many businesses and organisations encouraging schools to engage with kids at a young age. Schools have a huge role to play in changing ideas and perceptions on not just what a programmer looks like but also pushing the right message on Diversity and Inclusion.  We need to have courage and confidence in the younger generation to change perceptions and that will naturally help us all become more diverse in the future.”

What about Inclusion? Dawn is clear that companies have a responsibility to make people feel comfortable and included in the workplace. “It’s possible to go too far with this, but getting that blend right is achievable and I feel that an agile approach really helps us.” 



As many of you will know the word ‘Agile’ in tech is used to describe a methodology for software development. A modern, more efficient way of delivering projects by using short, sharp programming periods, called ‘sprints’. 
Dawn felt that instead of a structured approach that can limit or suffocate ideas, a more ‘Agile’ approach could play a key factor. “Agile is not just for tech, it is a way of thinking, a mind-set for growth and change. Perhaps we can all benefit by using a more Agile approach to Diversity and Inclusion”. 

In conclusion it’s clear that talking to Dawn, she believes passionately about Diversity and Inclusion. She has seen so much change in the last twenty or so years and she totally understands that, for Intechnica to not just grow but to be better, it has to be diverse without consciously thinking about it. 

My next blog will feature the thoughts of Marketing, Technology and Futurist expert Dan Sodergren as we discuss AI and Machine Learning and the danger of unconscious bias. 
Thanks to Kirsty Devlin, Vimla Apadoo, Jacqueline de Rojas and Naomi Timperley for their assistance with this blog post. 
 
Oscar Technology is an award winning recruitment agency delivering the brightest talent across the IT and Technology markets. We are committed to helping our clients achieve and go beyond basic diversity requirements when it comes to recruiting Technology based staff for their businesses.

To find out more visit https://www.oscar-tech.com/specialist-it-technology-recruitment

Sam Mikkelsen is Client Solutions Director for Oscar Technology. Sam is responsible for developing Oscar’s existing client relationships as well as ensuring new clients receive the best solutions to suit their business from day one. Sam also has responsibility for initiating new solutions and service lines and has a strategic view on all things recruitment, regularly attending industry events so that Oscar are continually at the bleeding edge of ever evolving recruitment innovation.

Sam has worked in recruitment since 1996 working for one of the biggest IT recruiters in Europe and went on to lead the startup of two IT recruitment businesses. Prior to joining Oscar, Sam spent 3.5 years working internally with a software company helping them to launch a web based software solution to media and advertising agencies throughout the UK, Australia and the US, giving him a strong understanding of the internal workings of the technology industry. If you’re interested in contributing to future blogs or would like to get involved in any of our events for 2018 please get in touch with Sam directly 07854 245 390 / sam.mikkelsen@oscar-tech.com



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