Founder and CEO
LOCATION: London, UK
FUNDING (TO DATE): $6m
D&I in the tech industry
I feel like there is a change coming: the industry has awoken to the value of diversity in all its guises.
About three years ago I was speaking at a tech conference and noticed that roughly 90% of the attendees were men. Fast forward to this year, when I spoke at Founders Forum accelerateHER, and about 40 percent of the audience was male and mostly looking for female deal flow.
In terms of gender diversity, we’re definitely not at parity but it’s great to see that the industry is starting to move in the right direction.
Value Fit vs. Culture Fit
So often I hear many of my fellow founders saying, “We’ve got to hire for culture fit”. And I become worried about that: hiring for culture fit tends to mean hiring someone you think you’ll get on with – someone you would potentially go to the pub with. This attitude tends to lead to very non-diverse teams because you’re hiring people like you and if we’re all the same how can we think differently? What’s more important is hiring talent people who share your company’s values.
As a founder, one of my jobs is to maintain the company’s values. For every candidate we interview, we screen for a ‘values fit’ in the first round before progressing to the next stage. I’ve found that any bad hiring mistake I’ve made in the past was due to a values misfit. As such, we screen for values fit even before getting any further into, say, tech tests. If the candidate isn’t passionate about diversity, it just doesn’t work out.
Towards Socioeconomic diversity
At The Dots, we help companies – and we reach over ten thousand now – hire no collar talent (creators, freelancers & entrepreneurs) from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. We removed the ability to search for talent by university: our talent is judged on what they create, not based on what university they went to.
When people search our platform, they can choose to search in bias blocker mode; you can’t see profile pictures, names, educational background or anything that could bias your decision in that hiring process.
For every new hire that joins the team, they do an induction with me personally. Part of that induction is intrinsically linked to diversity: I introduce them to the different layers of diversity at The Dots to ensure they understand the issue is more than just a discussion about gender balance it’s about ethnicity, sexulaity, neuradiversity, socio economic diversity in essence building team that reflect society so we remove biases in product innovation.
On neurodiversity, dyslexia and leadership models
We need to broaden the discussion on neurodiversity in the tech industry, those with dyslexia, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) etc. For example, thirty five percent of entrepreneurs are dyslexic, as are many self-made millionaires. Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs were dyslexic, as is Holly Tucker (founder of ‘Not On the High Street’), Jo Malone and Richard Branson to name but a few!
Many of the traits that make us dyslexic also make us formidable entrepreneurs: we have high levels of perseverance, we’re very creative and we high levels of empathy meaning that we make good leaders.
I’m very vocal about my dyslexia in order educate audiences, so that they don’t view dyslexia as a disability – and to empower anyone else who is dyslexic in the room. Dyslexia is a superpower if you manage it in the right way!
The conversation about neurodiversity is starting to develop. What has enabled people across the tech industry to become more open about their neurodiversities, comes from the top.
I think leaders really need to be more open about neurodiversities so that the mid-levels and juniors coming through can also feel empowered and bring their whole selves to work.
You get the best out of people if they can bring their whole selves to work. If someone is struggling in silence because they find for example their open plan office distracting because their autism, they’re not going to be happy or productive.
Diverse Talent takeovers
To celebrate and highlight different types of diversity, we do huge Diversity Takeovers at The Dots. For example, for Black History Month, we only featured black talent and projects created by black talent on the The Dots platform. We did the same for International Women’s Day, only featuring women and projects by women for a full month, as well as a full LGBT Take-Over for Pride. Last month we featured Social Purpose, which highlighted people creating business with social hearts. Next up? A Socioeconomic Takeover!
Our core values
The first core value is positivity. That’s not positivity for positivity sake. I want my team to challenge me and I want them to challenge each other. It’s about having a team that’s focused on solutions and not problems. This is so important in scaling a business.
Diversity is another of one of our core values. It’s vital to our business and has been embedded from the beginning. Diverse teams are better for business, and better for creativity. We put diversity at the heart of our values.
We have a diverse team to reflect this ethos, a team that also respects diversity and is passionate about the issue. The Dots is very much a business that is built on the principle of being an example of ethical tech and not on the typical ‘move fast and break things’ principle. I want a team around me that totally shares in that vision. We are definitely stronger together than we are apart: the whole company is actually built around the power of teams and how teams form an intrinsic part of the creative process. This is actually our last core value – collaboration.
Collaboration makes us stronger, it gives us drive. This is a team that’s driven to succeed. This doesn’t mean working all hours, but it means happy (CHECK ENDING AGAINST PDF)