Joe Baguley, chief technology officer, EMEA
Next week over 12,000 of Europe’s brightest technology minds will gather together in one place to learn, connect and collaborate. VMworld Europe and other events of its kind demonstrate the benefits that different backgrounds, perspectives, skills and cultures bring when they are given a chance to work together. In light of the huge changes every organisation is continually going through, events like VMworld Europe show that as well as the innovative technologies on display, innovation thrives where diverse perspectives are actively encouraged, respected and celebrated. I always look forward to VMworld as a great place to meet so many different people facing similar challenges and opportunities.
Against this backdrop, businesses face an uncertain future. How do they continue pushing the boundaries that enable them to innovate and stay ahead of the competition, without knowing what political and economic movements take place next? Being successful in this challenging period is all about making the most of what you have and what every business, large or small, has are its people. They are what drives the business and ultimately makes it a success or failure. Diversity and inclusion is a huge part of that. In fact, 78 percent of respondents to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report stated that they believe this to be a competitive advantage.
Businesses must therefore create an environment where people can be the best version of themselves and do their very best work. Our ability to be creative and think differently is enhanced when we’re in an environment that actively encourages new thinking and perspectives. Often, this may mean breaking away from traditional approaches.
Awareness of diversity is not just about race, sex or gender – it includes and recognises the value all kinds of differences bring to teams, such as: hobbies, family background, dramatic life experiences, nationality, previous careers (some of my colleagues are on their third or fourth and have had fascinating previous jobs!) or even just something as simple as education – a topic I am passionate about. For example, I decided not to follow the traditional route of a university degree, dropping out of a CompSci degree at Imperial College and diving straight into the world of work, learning and developing skills on the job – I made friends in those early teams that I still have to this day. Although we do recruit graduates at VMware and also have paid internships, our scheme is deliberately for ‘young starters’ and can include those coming straight from school. A quick survey I conducted of technical field folks at VMware in the UK showed that nearly half of them had no formal education past the age of 18, and of those that did have degrees, some were in really diverse non-STEM subjects such as philosophy.
It allows us to demonstrate that the technology sector is diverse and employs people with a wide range of skills from HR, through legal and marketing to communications. In doing so, we’ve been able to unlock fresh perspectives that we might not have seen had we continued with what had been done before – colleagues are encouraged to dare to be themselves in an inclusive culture that we are proud of – in fact our culture is often cited by new-hires as one of the main things that attracted them to VMware.
Introducing more diverse and inclusive working environments has been a big focus for many businesses in recent years and there have been some fantastic initiatives introduced and progress made. At VMware, for example, our VMinclusion campaign and business leaders have been focused on driving better awareness around unconscious biases across the organisation. Personally I found my own recent participation in MARC training both revealing and educating in an incredibly positive way. I learned that no-one should be ashamed of any unconscious bias or privilege, but more importantly recognise that privilege and look to use it honourably for good.
At VMworld, I will be speaking to a number of business leaders about the work that they have been doing to recognise and act on the need for more diversity and inclusion within their businesses. I will also be asking them about how they have introduced the changes required by the industry that is now a crucial component to the health and success of any business, whether that’s through the bottom line, staff productivity or their ability to attract and retain talent, inclusion and diversity requires business change by business leaders who value differences.
I’ll be posting a blog about those discussions after the event so keep an eye out for those insights. As we tackle these challenging times and look ahead to the future, we should always remember that the power of human difference has been, and will continue to be, a vital component to business success.