How to Build a Diverse Team in Tech

Sunil Joseph
Global VP of Customer Success

Interview Highlights:

  • When you hire, look for skills and personalities that complement and supplement your existing team
  • Companies should always take the approach of listening, acknowledging, and responding when it comes to D&I matters
  • Without inclusion, all your diversity efforts will be for nothing

Can you please introduce yourself and what you do for Stack Overflow?

My name is Sunil Joseph, and I’m the global VP of Customer Success at Stack Overflow. I lead our renewals business and our customer success organization for our SaaS product called Stack Overflow for Teams. I’m responsible for increasing the overall value and adoption that our customers get out of their investment in Stack Overflow. 

Stack Overflow seems to be a big supporter of diversity and inclusion. Can you tell me more about that?

Yeah, absolutely. This is definitely something I’m really passionate about.

One reason I think Stack Overflow is able to move the needle with this issue is that it’s something we truly believe in as a company. To put it simply, diversity is being invited to a party and inclusion is being asked to dance. 

So when we look at hiring folks into the company, especially when it comes to our customer success team, we always look for the person with the most interesting and diverse skill sets that our team does not have today. Skills that are complementary and supplementary to our current capabilities. If we keep hiring people with the same experiences and the same backgrounds, then we’re not learning from each other. 

From an inclusion perspective, I would say that you can focus all day on diversity, but if you’re not bringing those people together and giving them the opportunity to be part of the process, and helping bring those skill sets to the table, then your D&I efforts as an organization are not successful. 

So one of the things I feel that we are doing well as a team is providing everyone with a platform to bring their experiences to the table and elevate the experience for the team. 

What do you think companies can do to improve their D&I?

I would say the most important thing is to walk the talk. Obviously, you want to bring in the best and most diverse talent. And I think the intent is always good, but a lot of companies miss the mark on living and breathing those values on a daily basis. 

Yes, you can bring in diverse candidates, but are you being open to their ideas and using them to your business’ advantage? 

The intent is good, but it’s always good from an execution perspective to listen, acknowledge and respond. There are both macro and micro interactions that people have within a company. From a macro perspective, you wouldn’t be able to make D&I successful unless you’re thinking and making it happen on micro conversations that a pair or a group of employees have on a daily basis. That informs the company’s overall culture. 

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If a business owner wanted to improve their D&I efforts, what process should they use to get started?

There are three steps they should use:

First, what kind of organization do you want to build? Most importantly, what kind of organization do you have today? You can’t change an organization overnight. It takes work. It’s also important to figure out what the great things you can do today that haven’t really been elevated from an organizational team perspective. Think about where you want to be, but also gauge what the awesome things you ARE doing today are, and what things you’re missing the mark on. It’s a gap analysis.

Second, bring all of your cross-functional teams together. Once you have a vision, share it with them in terms of what you want to be as an organization. Align it to an organizational goal or KPI and show how you can move the needle. Most of the time, you think about some of these goals really being at the leadership or organizational level, but it really starts with one person putting their foot forward and saying “Hey, I’m going to build a really diverse and inclusive team.” Then you get the support from your team. Not just the leadership team, but the cross-functional partners as well.

Third, you need to be very thoughtful in terms of hiring and being choosy when it comes to finding those diverse perspectives. And when I say choosy, I mean you’re always choosing people who will bring those complementary and supplementary skills to the team. Once you hire those candidates and bring them in, use their experiences to elevate the experiences of your team. 

So as long as you're following those three steps: Step one, figure out where you want to be, what you’re currently doing, and where the gaps are. Step two, build cross-functional alignment. Step three, hire the talent, but more importantly, think about how you’re leveraging their experiences to grow your business. 

That would be the three-step playbook in terms of how organizations can think about D&I.

Do you have any final comments about the topic of D&I?

I would like to say a couple of things. The first thing is to always be ready to focus on skills that you’re learning from the opportunities that you’re getting. Say yes to as many opportunities as possible and think about the learnings you get from each of them.

The second thing I would say is to think about the kind of team culture you’re building. Take inventory of that, but also be really thorough about what the great things you’re doing today are, and what you can improve on.

The last point I’ll make is to hire the best talent possible, while adding a layer of inclusion over top. You need to proactively focus on the inclusion piece, because if you don’t get that right, then your diversity efforts are not going to succeed.

About 
Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers. More than 50 million professional and aspiring programmers visit Stack Overflow each month to help solve coding problems, develop new skills, and find job opportunities. Founded in 2008, Stack Overflow partners with businesses to help them understand, hire, engage, and enable the world's developers. To learn more about Stack Overflow's business solutions - technical recruiting, advertising, market research, and enterprise knowledge sharing visit stackoverflowbusiness.com.

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