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Nextail, on a journey for diversity in tech

Meritxell Calvo

Company people

Initiatives for forming an inclusive team

In mid-2019, we began an internal initiative called “Diversity & Inclusion in tech”. We hold monthly meetings which are open to the whole team, and all are welcome to bring up topics of discussion or concern.

Our first order of business was to ensure that we all shared a common understanding of what diversity and inclusion mean. Specifically, it was important that we all understood the depth and breadth of these terms in that they refer not only to racial and ethnic classifications, but also to gender, age, religion, philosophy, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, functional ability, genetic attributes, and more. Only with this understanding can apply this awareness to our hiring practices.

This post describes how we are consciously attempting to increase diversity on our tech team, and some of our recent successes, especially in terms of increasing our reach out to more underrepresented groups. We also focus on how this had an immediate impact on two of our most recent hiring processes.

Reaching more underrepresented groups

A initial lack of diverse applicants

In previous processes, we realized that there was a lack of diversity among candidacies we received. This is an example of the breakdown of two past vacancies:

Diversity of candidates BEFORE

Through an initial discovery process, we realized that the lack of diverse candidates we were seeing was a result of our recruitment process not reaching many groups. We identified this as a priority and took action.

Through an initial discovery process, we realized that the lack of diverse candidates we were seeing was a result of our recruitment process not reaching many groups. We identified this as a priority and took action.

The actions we took

1. We woke up

The first and most important step in this journey was to understand that having a homogeneous list of candidates was the symptom of a dysfunction in our selection process.

We know that software developers have always been members of diverse groups, even if they haven’t received much visibility. If we don’t perceive such diversity in the candidacies we receive, it’s because we are not reaching these groups.

Once we gained this insight, we decided to take action.

2. We rewrote our job offers

Words matter. People feel identified or excluded depending on the language they read. We need to think about how we communicate in our offers. Therefore, we rewrote them using inclusive vocabulary.

Underrepresented communities may also underestimate their skills: most women won’t apply to a position if they don’t meet every requirement in the offer, even if they are fully capable of carrying out the job.

On the one hand, they need to feel safe about our hiring process in order to apply. On the other hand, we need to be realistic about our minimum requirements: Do we really need the candidate to know Ruby 2.7? Or would we rather have a candidate willing to learn any programming language?

At the end of the day, our improved list of requirements became a list of concepts, focusing on cultural fit and motivation rather than on specific technologies. This made our offers (especially junior positions) very accessible without lowering the bar.

Finally, we emphasized the social benefits we offer: remote work, a learning community, mentoring, and fair salaries.

3. We included a woman in tech on the hiring team

A  person from an underrepresented group brings the best wisdom about the problems and interests of this group. As a woman in tech, I brought this perspective. As an activist that has listened to the stories of members from several other underrepresented groups, I brought the knowledge I learned from them.

But that wouldn’t have changed anything without the commitment of the rest of my colleagues. Everyone knew the issue was there and we struggled to decide how to improve the process. We worked as a team to solve a problem we were aware of. That’s what made the difference.

However, as our perspectives are tied to our experiences and biases, we need to keep learning to get a better understanding of how different people behave and feel during selection processes.

4. We reached out to them

Each of us lives in our own echo chamber. That’s a fact. We tend to make friends that are similar to us. We follow influencers with whom we identify. We all live inside our comfort zone.

Therefore, we can’t expect other people to step outside their comfort zone to read and consider our offer. Instead, we have to belong to their comfort zones. That’s how our offer will appear in their timelines and feeds.

To achieve this, we asked representatives from underrepresented groups to share and talk about our offer. But this is not something that can be done from one day to the next. Asking for and giving help requires trust-building. Before you can ask for help, you need to know each other. Caring about our contact network is also a responsibility.

5. We empowered and encouraged candidates

As I mentioned before, some folks hesitate to apply because, even when they have the expertise and the energy, they feel less prepared than other potential candidates.

Usually, they just need someone that appreciates their value and encourages them to make that decision. So we allowed for private conversations where they could ask their questions and learn about us without feeling interviewed. These conversations were open to absolutely everyone interested in applying.

An immediate impact on applicants and our team

In Q3 2019, we opened two new positions: Junior Software Developer and Senior Software Developer. Once we carried out our initiatives, the impact on the applications we received were positive and immediate.

Here’s what the numbers looked like after:

Diversity of candidates after

Junior Backend Software Developer

Noteworthy: Of the 44 candidates that applied for this position, 7 passed the technical challenge, 5 of whom were women.

And although initially we were only looking to fill one position, we ended up hiring two new programmers due to their stunning skills. Both were women.

Senior Backend Software Developer

Noteworthy: Of those candidates we ruled out for this position, four were added to Nextail’s tech talent pool to be considered for future positions, three of whom were women.

Percentage of diversity of candidates

How can we continue improving?

While we are proud of our efforts, there is always more work to be done. We have identified some ways in which we hope to improve our reach in the future.

1. More diversity

We made very good progress understanding the obstacles of some underrepresented groups in tech. However, we made most of our headway reaching gender, origin, and functionally diverse candidates even though our understanding of diversity is much wider. Therefore, we need to keep increasing our understanding of diverse groups to create an even more inclusive environment.

2. More culture

We are limited by our biases. We will always be. But if we get the proper training, we will be able to identify them inside and around us and act in kind.

3. More visibility

The lack of diversity and inclusion in tech teams is a very common problem. But we can change this. Everyone, every day, can do something about it. As a company, we want to share our experience and help others improve.

One good idea is sponsoring events that take diversity seriously, such as FabadaConf, where some candidates first heard of us.

We also offer up our office for hosting events, help candidates send proposals, attend events that advocate for diversity and talks given by members of underrepresented communities. Even talking about this publically on social media and other platforms helps highlight these communities and give them more visibility.

At the same time, we must continue enhancing our knowledge about diversity and inclusion. For instance, we are considering a policy and code of conduct regarding that very subject.

We should be proud of the work we’ve done so far. The numbers are there. Now let’s keep learning and improving our environment, there’s still so much to do!


About Meritxell Calvo – In addition to being a Fullstack Developer at Nextail, Meritxell (@nyan_dev) is a Mentor at Devscola, public speaker, and tech event organizer. You can read more of her work on her blog.

Meritxell is also organizing Global Diversity CFP Day in Valencia, Spain on Saturday, January 18th, 2020. You can find more information and sign up to attend (!) on the official event page here.

Nextail is always on the lookout for great candidates to join our team no matter their background. Visit our Careers page to see our job openings, and apply today!

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