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What are best practices for companies who want to foster and scale a diverse engineering organization? - Intuit Developer Community Blog

April 14, 2020 | Sushma Rathnam

What are best practices for companies who want to foster and scale a diverse engineering organization?

Does diversity matter? If you’re looking at diversity in the context of the workplace, research shows that diverse organizations “perform better financially.” Powering prosperity around the world, especially for small business owners, is Intuit’s mission, and they’ve been successful because they have created a diverse organization and an environment of belonging.

Intuit on diversity and inclusivity

Have you ever worked at a company where you felt you couldn’t be yourself? Perhaps you’re working for one now. Molding yourself into an ideal takes a lot of energy that could, instead, be channeled into being a creative, productive, and satisfied employee.

I’ve worked at Intuit for four years. As an engineering leader, I currently lead partner services engineering, managing teams that serve our strategic partnerships, as well as a broad range of other developers. The best part is that I get to be me, and I get to do my job in a welcoming workplace.

For example, Intuit believes there are no dumb questions or stupid ideas. Everyone is encouraged to share their ideas, and we make it a comfortable proposition by asking for ideas offline or before a meeting. This provides the space for everyone to chime in with their ideas without feeling any pressure. We then do the analysis as a group, present the pros and cons of all ideas, and pick up the most viable idea to start with. “Fail fast,” also known as Design for Delight (D4D), allows us to fall in love with the problem and not the solution. If one idea fails, we are happy to quickly move on to another idea.

In addition, we talk about the needs of everyone in the group, and acknowledge that each of us might have different circumstances at any given point in time and are empathetic to those needs. Seeing the empathy from the leaders and managers, and other people in the team provides a safe environment for everyone.

Diversity and inclusivity best practices

Creating a safe environment is a best practice followed by successful diverse organizations. Another best practice is to review hiring practices.

It’s critical that unconscious biases do not play a part in the hiring process. For me, I make sure the hiring team itself is diverse. The hiring team consists of the right mix of gender, age, and levels based on the position being hired for. I also look for people with different backgrounds to build out a team. Everyone brings different skill sets to the table based on their experience; a team with a diverse set of experiences always produces better results.

It’s also important to pay attention to the promotion process. Existing employees need to feel like they have a career path within the company. We are constantly challenging our diverse teams to do better and use their unique backgrounds and previous experiences to take on more complex problems. When employees see that effort recognized by way of promotion, it empowers them to bring their whole selves to work.

At Intuit, the promotion process has undergone some changes, including allowing engineers to nominate themselves. Gathering data and monitoring the diversity numbers of this self-nominated process is important for eliminating the possibility of a biased result. For example, Intuit found that women are less likely to nominate themselves and used that data to take measures to solve for it, including adding peer nominations, and extra support from management encouraging female employees to nominate themselves.

Intuit has also implemented other diversity and inclusivity strategies, including:

  • Pairing new hires with a buddy from day one to make them feel welcome, ideally with someone who has a similar background – for example, a new graduate with someone that is only a few years out of college or a female employee with a female employee.
  • Including new members in all team discussions.
  • Ensuring that hiring teams include female employees whenever possible, especially in engineering roles.
  • Establishing a women’s group where women can share ideas and tips on navigating a corporate world.
  • Encouraging employees to participate in new grad mentoring programs to help new people entering the workforce find a firm footing.
  • Employee Resource Groups, including the Intuit Abilities Network, Intuit African Ancestry Network, Intuit Asia Pacific Network, Intuit Women’s Network, Intuit Muslim Awareness Network, Intuit Pride Network, Intuit Military Network – just to name a few.

And, Intuit’s practice of diversity and inclusivity is not a one-and-done situation. Marianna Tessel, Intuit’s chief technology officer, notes in a Quora discussion on fostering diverse organizations, “We continue to learn in this space. Every meeting, every behavior, every value – all of these are signals to people whether this is a place for them or not.”

Diversity and inclusivity possible for every company

Intuit has dedicated its time, energy, and resources to making sure that employees feel welcome (just as they are) and that they are heard. The result has been high employee satisfaction (see why Intuit Senior Developer Relations Engineer Brinda Sivalingam loves being an Intuit Developer), greater productivity, and ultimately, a customer base whose needs are not only being met, but exceeded.

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