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“What are you doing to promote diversity?”

The question came at the end of an interview with a candidate I badly wanted to hire. I’d started explaining how Ticketmaster is an environment that they would flourish in. I spoke of the training we offer, the awesome tech we’ve adopted, the interesting challenges the role would present and made sure to show off our offices… all in the hope that they would agree to join us. If you’ve been trying to hire developers recently you’ll understand why I was selling us so hard: competition between employers for really solid front-end engineers has always been stiff, right now it’s white hot, and the pressure is only increasing.

 “What are you doing to promote diversity?”

It’s not just a great question for an interviewee – the answer reveals a lot about an organisation’s priorities and what it’s really like to work for – it’s also one that employers need to ask of themselves: if hiring is hard, what are we doing to broaden the pool of available talent? What are we doing to attract applicants who see the value of doing so?

I was glad to be able to tell her that Ticketmaster has a good record in this area and has held events before openly discussing diversity in the workplace but, in this post, I’d like to talk about one recent collaboration in particular: working with Codebar.

What you can do

The challenge is clear, but less obvious is how to respond to it: how can your company contribute effectively to the project of giving people the tools they need to make their way into our industry? Individually organisations aren’t necessarily in a strong position to build a program from scratch themselves; fortunately, this is exactly where collaboration with Codebar shines:

A non-profit initiative that facilitates the growth of a diverse tech community by running regular programming workshops.

We provided our in-house events space, food and drinks and additional support and coaching on the night; in exchange, they provided a structured curriculum in foundational web technologies to attendees who met their eligibility requirements and matched them with professional developers for around three hours of pair programming. Critically, it’s a format that works: the courses are extremely well thought-through, it’s well attended by both students and mentors and the atmosphere is at once studious and friendly.

The night fit perfectly within our policy to encourage and support diverse young talent, and follows work placements from City and Islington A Level students and our presence at two recent  ‘Girls in STEM “speed dating”’events. The latter was a great chance to encourage gender diversity, giving young women interested in pursuing a career in STEM a chance to meet a variety of inspiring females already established in the industry. Through a series of brief meetings, the girls could explore and discuss the range of roles available to them and receive professional opinions on any issues or questions they may have. As one attendee from Ticketmaster said, ‘It is really important for me to emphasise to girls that anything is possible and to ensure they consider their options for the future to ensure they are capable of being able to support themselves in whatever career they choose to pursue’. With Codebar’s help, this event enabled us to offer an additional chance for another diverse range of potential candidates to enter our industry.

It’s worth noting that Despo (Codebar’s founder) and her co-organisers offer great support to the host company: they provided recommendations for catering, managed attendance, and even rallied attendees to help clean up afterwards.  It’s a great recipe for a successful event that I’m looking forward to repeating.

Wrapping up

Personally, I’m entirely persuaded that there is a clear moral imperative to increase opportunities for people from a broader range of backgrounds to our industry. It also happens, however, that addressing the question “What are we doing to attract more of the people we see too few of?” offers commercial advantages as well. I’m sure it won’t be the last time a candidate wants to know what we’re doing about it either.

My thanks to everyone who helped host the event: the hard-working students and volunteer coaches; Despo and her irrepressible team; the Angel office’s redoubtable facilities managers; and to Gerry McDonnell our SVP of Technology who generously funded Ticketmaster’s involvement with the project.

 

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