Solution Providers Explain Top DEI Investments
Solution providers tell CRN about their top DEI investments today and what they are doing inside their company around diversity, equity and inclusion.
Solution Providers’ Top Investments And Strategies For DEI
Forward-thinking solution providers are now making diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) an integral part of their hiring and retaining process with the goal of boosting profitability, employee diversity and overall innovation.
CRN spoke with solution providers at XChange 2022 regarding what DEI investments their company is making and their efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion.
“What I learned [at an XChange session] is how much more profitable you can get if you have a diverse mindset because everyone’s bringing all these different ideas to the table so you can have more innovation in the stuff you’re doing,” said Faisal Ahmed, CEO of Durham, N.C.-based Benchmark Network Solutions.
At XChange 2022 this week, CRN parent The Channel Company hosted several sessions and presentations for its hundreds of attendees around DEI enablement, understanding and the benefits it offers. Many attendees found the information eye-opening, telling CRN they plan to take home the DEI lessons learned to their company.
Solution providers from across the country told CRN they are doubling down on DEI regarding their recruitment efforts and how they operate internally.
“I go out and I talk to high-school kids and college kids that are concerned that they’re not going to be able to get a job based on either their name or their ZIP code,” said Derek Nwamadi, CEO of Dallas-based Quantum Symphony.
“We go out and we speak to students and we bring them on as interns to learn and make sure that—whatever time they spend with us and whatever they need to get out of it—we can help,” said Nwamadi. “And if we grow enough, we’ll bring them on as our actual employees.”
CRN asked solution providers the question, ‘What kind of DEI investments is your company making right now?’ Here are their responses.
Derek Nwamadi, CEO
What we’re doing [from the] DEI standpoint is twofold. I go out and I talk to high-school kids and college kids that are concerned that they’re not going to be able to get a job based on either their name or their ZIP code.
So it’s not just hiding their name on their resume, the ZIP code also makes a difference if they’re trying to get a job locally. Somebody sees your ZIP code and it can turn a job recruiter away from interviewing you.
So the two things we do is we go out and we speak to students and we bring them on as interns to learn and make sure that—whatever time they spend with us and whatever they need to get out of it—we can help. And if we grow enough, we’ll bring them on as our actual employees.
If not, we give them training so they know about cybersecurity, and we can be used as a reference point for their next move. Because our job is to get you exposed and keep doing so until you get to the knowledge base that gets you higher.
We do it for all ages, not just college students, but even 50-year-old folks that go, ‘I want to get into cybersecurity, but I can’t get a certification because I don’t have the experience to get a test.’
Well, we can help you get the experience. So we literally live what I’m preaching, and we do it for everyone—older, younger, it doesn’t matter.
I’ve been in the space for 25-plus years. Typically, I’m one of two or three Black people in the room—and typically those are Black males, not even females. It’s something I’m used to, but it’s a disconcerting feeling.
But then when you look under the unconscious biases that are driving the status quo, there are people not either ready to admit or willing to admit that their unconscious biases are driving the status quo.
Jana Sellers, Executive Director, B2B Technologies
The NPD Group
Port Washington, N.Y.
Our company has been hosting individuals to come and talk to our teams about DEI.
We have various groups within our company that focus on certain aspects of diversity.
We host fireside chats.
We also do email campaigns that we send out internally just to educate people on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts that they may not be aware of.
Faisal Ahmed, CEO
Benchmark Network Solutions
The Channel Company’s DEI session yesterday I attended was almost an eye-opener to a certain extent.
Some of the things I’ve been thinking about: It’s getting harder and harder to retain people or hire new people. I’ve been interviewing for it feels like forever to get the right people. I just realized from the session that maybe we need to change some word language we put our job ads. Maybe we’re not attracting diverse people just because of the way we write stuff.
Because we say, ‘We want an aggressive person, hard-working, etc.’—maybe it’s only attracting then males and not females. All these things that we weren’t doing intentionally, but it’s just unintentionally maybe turning off people.
What I learned yesterday is how much more profitable you can get if you have a diverse mindset because everyone’s bringing all these different ideas to the table so you can have more innovation in the stuff you’re doing. So I’m excited to definitely take advantage of some of that.
That’s something I pride, or I thought I prided myself in—I wanted to make sure everybody felt very welcome. I’ve gotten rid of vendors or subcontractors who have said anything bad about something like gender because I don’t want to tolerate that at all. I want everyone to feel welcome.
We’re still all biased somewhere either in our writing or the way we speak and all that, so I want to be more careful so I actually encourage more open dialogues.
Because that’s one another thing I just realized—I did notice some people in my company are always less likely to speak up in meetings because I’m always asking for everyone’s opinion because I really want to hear them. Some people might just think, ‘Oh, maybe I shouldn’t speak up because he’s the CEO. So whatever he says sticks,’—and I don’t want that because then you’re leaving out a lot of good ideas.
Betsy Reed, Co-Founder, VP, Sales, Marketing
San Jose, Calif.
As a woman founder in technology, and moreover as woman leader in the sales space, we want to give equal opportunity—regardless of who you are, where you came from or where you are going—to be successful. That’s what DEI means to me.
We don’t have a formal program in place, but we look and seek talent where talent lies, and we use a very broad net for that. So we’re open to any walk of life.
We don’t look for somebody that has a pedigree from a high college education or Ph.D. No, we look for people that are hard workers, have integrity, that we know are going to carry through the cultural values of CloudWerx into their day to day.
As it turns out, we have an extremely diverse team. I would love to say it was by design, but I actually am more proud to say it was organic. So when you look at our team, it’s extremely diverse.
We have folks that are first-generation immigrants to the United States. I’m a female founder, and we have folks that have really come from all over.
So we’re committed to having a diverse workforce. Because we believe that it adds to the—I call it like a ‘quilt of our culture’—the more unique opinions, different mindsets, different people backgrounds, how were they raised, all of that helps to add a different perspective that we feel gives us a leg up on the competition.
That’s something that we really try to bring to the table for our customers—people that think about things differently, challenge each other and up-level.
Philip Walker, CEO
Network Solutions Provider
DEI reflects your customer base and makes you more relatable to your customers.
For the last several years, we’ve done a push for advocacy and for other companies to see and understand that there’s talent in the diverse piece of this segment.
As we deal with talent shortages and retention issues, it’s time to start to take that managed risk on people we can skill-up for more opportunities to add diversity versus always hiring top talent that leaves right away. Instead, you are growing talent and a diverse team.
At the end of the day, your company takes on your ideas and your reflections. If your team feels proud and great about working for your company, they are going to go that extra mile for you because the company stands for something more than profits.
Paco Lebron, President, CEO
We specifically are focusing on diversity in the Latino and the minority market.
Our business is pretty much all Latino and Latina. We have actually 51 percent women and also Latino and minority descent as well.
We have several that are also out-of-country as well to include that for culture and community purposes. But we also have those that are looking to just escalate and scale their own presence in the industry.
Jesse Courchaine, Managed Service Director
Integrated Computer Consulting
Fort Collins, Colo.
I attended Sunday’s Inclusive Leadership Network workshop at XChange. I found it interesting.
In terms of diversity in general, we’ve looked at who we’re hiring, but we don’t have a dedicated plan yet.
I’d like to hire more diverse candidates for sure because the more talent we can get out of that, the better.
It would make my life easier because I could bring in more talent. And I could also have less group-think of just repeating things from the same people.
Timothy Wicks, Owner
We’ve always, from the onset, treated people equally regardless.
So we’ve naturally just created a workforce that was diverse. It’s just a fact of life that is how everything should be.
I think also where your business is located and how diverse the actual locality is affects that in a natural way.
So I would recommend everyone just treat everyone with respect and I actually am a believer that it will come naturally. You shouldn’t have to try too hard.
Gordon Martin, President
I’ve always invested in diversity, equity and inclusion.
We’ve done this with lifelong support, mentoring and mentoring of anyone who would be in need of trying to grow their career.
It’s never been a challenge of having to identify anybody by any description. But I’ve always been inclusive of anyone who wants to be part of our organization.
If you live your life with core values of diversity, equity and inclusion you don’t have to specify that that’s a requirement of an organization.