Posted on: 25/07/2019

A few weeks ago, our COO Alison Young attended the Women of Silicone Roundabout technology conference in London with two of our Software Developers, Katy Ashby and Cait O’Sullivan.  They made the decision to attend the event not simply because they are women working in technology, but for its focus on future technology trends, diversity and inclusion.  Now that they have had time to reflect, Alison shares her experience of the event, and her key highlights.

Over 6000 attendees were there to take in over 150 sessions delivered by more than 300 speakers.  Whilst some discussions revisited well-trodden business and leadership concepts, it’s invigorating to take time away to revisit these important concepts, to reflect on what we do and how we do it. It was particularly interesting to hear that, regardless of size, most companies are addressing the same challenges:

  • How to recruit and retain the talent we need now and for the future of work
  • How to use technology to further our competitive position against an ever-changing technological landscape
  • How to define our organisational culture and what that means for our colleagues and customers

In terms of talent acquisition, we have taken steps to assess whether our technical job descriptions reflect any implicit bias that would serve as a barrier for the diverse pool of candidates we want to attract.  It also important to us to ensure it’s clear that in many cases we consider the fit for our team and overall attitude of a candidate to be more important than an exhaustive list of pre-existing skills that perhaps we can impart through training and coaching. 

The talks and discussions at the conference made me consider what inclusion really means, the challenges it may present and what it could mean in our own business.  It should be clear that a diverse team understands and accepts individuals’ unique characteristics, including gender, race, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and physical abilities.  But the value in this blend of individualism is the agility we can derive from the diversity of thought.  It’s not without difficulty however.  Bringing together a group of people with differing personalities, backgrounds, life experiences and approaches to work can lead to difference of opinion and tension.  Similarity-attraction theory in psychology tells us that we are naturally drawn to people like ourselves.  And so, ensuring we hire ‘not in our own image’ requires discipline.  In terms of day to day working, our teams must continuously work to find ways of ensuring that any potential conflict isn’t personal or disrespectful (and therefore a blocker), but rather stimulating and thought-provoking and that it becomes a productive part of our working life.  Diversity defines and promotes the differences between us, but inclusion is about ensuring those diverse elements feel part of the 'whole'. 

There were many discussions about disruption and digital transformation during the 2 days. Potentially quite scary concepts, in fact potentially so overwhelming that it may be difficult to know where to begin.  It struck me that for many existing organisations, digital transformation does mean harnessing technology to systematically remove pain points from the customer journey to deliver a frictionless customer experience.  It doesn’t mean, however that they we fundamentally change our business purpose.  At Red Box, we have a clearly defined customer value proposition.  We capture all voice communications across the global enterprise from legacy and new systems.  We secure and maximise the value of those voice communications through a highly open and connected voice platform that gives our customers data sovereignty and the freedom to embed this data into tools and applications of THEIR choice.  Our own digital transformation lies in how we build and deploy our product to market more swiftly, how we create a more frictionless experience for our customers and partners in a complex environment and how we capture customer insights to drive better customer service.  The advent of AI and ML means that the value of voice interaction is progressing beyond compliance and into areas such as automation, fraud, security, employee engagement and customer experience.  This allows us to significantly extend our value proposition to customers through a growing network of partners.

The importance of organisational culture and the cultural ‘blueprint’ were other hot topics from the conference.  One of the reasons cited for people leaving jobs is ‘poor fit in terms of culture,’ and therefore understanding how you define your culture and assess whether those you are hiring, and your business are a good match is key.  Culture is a manifestation of values and values represent the things that we, as a business believe in.   Defining these values is a collaborative process between the organisation and its teams. The challenge then lies in how you embed those values into your hiring process and how you ‘live’ them day to day.  If customers can ‘feel’ your culture through their interaction with your teams, this is something we should all be thinking about. 

Above all, it was inspiring to see women founders who are overcoming the power and funding imbalances that exist today, senior women in technology sharing meaningful experiences and younger entrants to the tech arena bringing new knowledge and ideas we can learn from. 

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