The Important Role Of Team Diversity

Lucas Smolic

CEO, CTO at Gan Bei Group



"When I was working at Omaze as a director. Our engineering team was made up of a bunch of white guys with fairly similar backgrounds, and I took charge of growing our team. I gradually added more members to the team and as I did so, I began to add some more diverse team members in order to change things up a bit."

Actions taken

"One of my favourite dev teams I've had was composed of a huge variety of people, including a woman who was self-taught, a woman with a Masters in CompSci from Carnegie Mellon University who was one a work visa from Shanghai, a big burly guy who constantly played video games and was very competitive, a man who owned several startups on the side, a Taiwanese woman who had grown up in the US who did a boot camp, and a Polish guy who spoke six languages. There were only two or three devs who had a CompSci degree, but they were an incredible team. After we got to the point where about 20 percent of the team was women, one of the things I noticed was that people started talking to each other differently. They were nicer and less competitive, and when we got to the point where the team was about 50 percent women, the team started bonding in ways I could never have imagined. For example, one of the women took dance classes down the street. She told a guy in the team about it who had always wanted to try it out, so he joined in. Before we knew it, half the team was taking dance classes twice a week. I'd never had a team that had expressed itself in this sort of way before. We'd had game nights and things before, but the culture started to break down walls in a new way. Because the team had shared so many things together, they felt able to tell each other when they disagreed with someone else's ideas in a friendly way.
One of the rules the team had was that you couldn't say the word "stupid". I don't like the word "stupid" because it's divisive and I had seen it put even good friends odds when they were discussing code. This kind of polarizing talk immediately stops you from wanting to express yourself or creates unnecessary competition. In such a diverse team, I wanted them to all feel comfortable. As we began to add different perspectives, ideas, and experience levels, we started to see people open up to new ways of thinking. Those with Comp Sci degrees would be challenged with new ideas by those without a degree, and would be open about never having considered issues in that way before. It became much easier for people to interact and this helped us to build one of the strongest culture's I've ever experienced. We could churn through a lot of ideas and get to the one we wanted much faster."

Lessons learned

"People often use the term diversity to mean a different race or gender. While those are obvious characteristics, it is a range of personality and experiences that factor much more into diversity, and teams need a diversity of thought. it is important to actively seek candidates with a range of socio-economic backgrounds, countries of origin, regional practices, household situations, school systems, and geography. Increasing your team's diversity brings a larger pool of ideas. Many people who have worked exclusively in CompSci believe there's just one way of doing things because they've been taught that way. When people come from different backgrounds they can offer fresh ideas and perspectives about how to work out an issue. Don't rule out self-taught individuals, or those changing careers. A finance major in a data engineering role brings incredible insight."

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Lucas Smolic

CEO, CTO at Gan Bei Group

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentTechnical ExpertiseDiversity and Inclusion InitiativesDiversity ImpactDiversity HiringOvercoming BiasTeam & Project Management

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