Culture

On Building Sustainable DEI in the Tech Industry

Tamara sitting
August 4, 2022

Read time 4 min

Recently, Reaktor took part in the European Women in Technology Conference in Amsterdam by sponsoring fifty tickets to underprivileged women looking to attend. I also had the pleasure of participating (with a purchased ticket outside of the sponsorship batch) along with three of my colleagues. The event’s focus this year was on celebrating resilience — a topic that feels all too timely in this current world. Post-conference, I felt the urge to reflect on my own journey building diversity, equity, and inclusion at Reaktor.

When I joined Reaktor three years ago, I was the only female engineer in our Amsterdam office. This wasn’t an unfamiliar position for me, having also been the only female developer at my previous company. Back then, it wasn’t something I even blinked an eye at — the image I had cultivated in my head of the tech industry was that it was all men, with women and non-binary people being an exception. Our team grew with more female devs shortly after, but my perception about women being an exception really only began to shift when, roughly a year and a half ago, we had an internal company event called Reset. At Reset we explored different directions we wanted to go as an organization, and what areas we wanted to focus on. The topic of diversity came out as an important one, which resulted in the establishment of a DEI team helping to consistently advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at Reaktor globally – something I currently take part in. 

tamara talking
Photos by Miriam Brunke

 

A good learning for me was the importance of keeping the issue of DEI internal (meaning no blog posts and no media around the topic) until we got a better sense of what it really meant for us. I think an easy mistake to make is turning the issue of diversity into an external stance immediately. That might, and often does, steer the focus away from examining the inner culture of an organization with care and diligence. There’s little use in creating marketing campaigns that attract diverse talent if your company isn’t ready to include them in its culture. You might strike some initial wins in recruitment, but if these values aren’t reflected in reality, issues with retaining those folks will become your next problem.

Another important insight I gained was that instead of relying on solo acts, it is crucial to understand where we stand and from there decide where we should put our energy and focus. We’ve been running workshops, assessments, events, and sponsorship projects — such as the Women in Technology tickets — since the beginning. I feel we’ve learned a lot in the process, both the good and the bad. One thing that seemed clear was that there was still a lot of work to be done. The initial steps for the DEI team were (and really needed to be) to figure out the current state of Reaktor with as much clarity and honesty as possible. 

I felt like the next step for our team was to further systematize Reaktor’s DEI efforts. My goal (and surely the goal of many organizations) is to contribute towards a systematic change within diversity, equity, and inclusion — internally and within the tech industry as a whole. This can be done on different scales, ranging from how we conduct interviews to taking a more systemic approach around our investments. For example, our involvement with the Women in Technology conference is something I’d like to see more of. Another thing that I really enjoyed working on with the team was creating a company-wide Code of Conduct and launching regular surveys to monitor the dynamics of diversity and inclusion within Reaktor. This, in my opinion, helps to establish the systematic foundation for the work that is still to be done.

tamara by the wall
Photos by Miriam Brunke

 

When it comes to the conversation around DEI within the tech industry in general, I’m overall happy about the increasing attention it’s getting. There simply isn’t a way to move forward without taking this issue into account actively. Without diverse teams, we’ll end up building biased software, biased machines, and steering all of STEM in a non-representative direction. There’s this quote that I love by Maya Angelou that says: “Once you know better, do better.” And I think this sentiment hits the nail right on the head when it comes to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within tech. It doesn’t matter where we start, it matters that we take the next step.

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