Geek Culture
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Geek Culture

How to build diversity in tech with Jossie Haines

Last week, our Slack community, Teams At Work, teamed up with Jossie Haines for an hour-long AMA (Ask Me Anything). Jossie is the VP of Engineering and Head of DE&I at Tile. She’s also lead award-winning teams at Apple and Zynga. For obvious reasons, the community was chomping at the bit to ask her some questions on tech, leadership, and diversity.

Here are the top takeaways from our Slack AMA with Jossie:

👐 On creating effective and fair leadership practices and principles

Q: What are your effective and fair leadership practices and principles?

Jossie: There are lots of them. My foundation is leading with empathy and really taking the time to consider things from others points of view and from a place of curiosity instead of judgement.

Some of the practices I put in place include clear goal setting where feedback is directly tied to the goals (this is a challenge especially for women where they tend to get less concreted technical feedback than men), leading by example and admitting when I make mistakes, following through and being accountable so I can hold others accountable, taking the time to get to know my direct reports personally, and motivating my team members to also be effective at communication and managing conflicts.

Q: How do those affect your behavior daily, weekly, monthly, annually?

Jossie: I love this question as it implies systems and I think having great systems and frameworks in place makes effective and fair management work in the long term.

I have a daily end-of-day review where I reflect on 3 things:

  1. What went well today?
  2. What didn’t go well?
  3. What did I learn that I could do differently?

This encourages me to really take the time to slow down and reflect. I expand this practice to weekly and monthly reflections that include planning and goal setting. On the management side, I’m able to leverage this as well to reflect on what topics I’m covering in 1:1s with my team and what I should be bringing up (ex. career goals, etc), what processes I need to improve, and which projects need my attention. By slowing down and considering these you are more likely to consider any biases and therefore lead to more effective management practices.

Q: Where do you struggle? (Personally created pressure)

Jossie: I personally struggle from a place of not wanting to hurt others. I can fall into a perfection trap where I feel bad if something goes wrong and then go into rumination instead of accepting it as a learning experience and moving on.

We make hundreds of decisions a day as managers and we will make mistakes so it’s about really being able to accept and move on and come at it from a growth mindset.

🚀 On overcoming imposter syndrome as a tech leader

Q: How do you deal with imposter syndrome as a leader? I hear about great leaders / developers at other companies and feel like they should be in my role.

Jossie: I personally have suffered from impostor syndrome. I went through a huge bought of it when I left Apple and I thought I had conquered it. Then about 6 months ago, my executive coach created a free 5 day training on ditching self doubt for her community. I ignored it for a while thinking I’d already dealt with my self doubt but wanted to watch it to give advice to my team. I watched it and then realized that there was a deeper layer of impostor syndrome still lurking and waiting to come up.

Moral of the story is, it can come back up and is important to deal with.

Impostor syndrome can kick in when things aren’t going well or you think you “failed” at something — but it’s about shifting your mindset to realize you are learning. One think that helps me with impostor syndrome is writing a weekly accomplishment list that I append to every week. If I ever start feeling not worthy I go through that list of what I have done.

💻 On managing and promoting engineers with generalist backgrounds

Q: Often in engineering, there’s a focus on promoting the person with the most experience in that exact role or part of the industry. What are your thoughts on how someone with a broader background (who’s maybe moved from one part of the industry or type of role to another) can put themselves in the best position to move into leadership?

Jossie: I love this question as it’s something so core to getting more diversity in a company. In engineering we so often focus on experience, but what we need to do is break it down to the competencies and skills that are actually needed.

To move into leadership, I initially thought it was just about delivering more but realized that wasn’t actually getting me more visibility. One of the key things I realized is I needed to become the solution person — as an engineer its very easy to find the problems and bring them up, but as a leader you need to bring solutions and plans to the table and be able to influence others.

🔫 On blasting bias

Q: How possible is it to eliminate unconscious biases?

Jossie: You can’t just do one hour of bias training and expect it to last — same with any learning. It’s about instead figuring out how to effectively drip the content over time in repeatable and actionable ways that inspire people to really think.

I recently read Kim Scott’s latest book, Just Work, and it has an amazing practice called “bias busting” that I would love to see become more common place in the workplace.

💡 The idea is to create an easy phrase anyone can say if they see something biased happen and make it a norm where this most likely happens 1–2 times during a meeting and that’s ok. The goal is that it isn’t a huge distraction or interruption but an acknowledgement that bias happened and making people slow down to think about it.

🌱 On hiring for diversity and internal quotas

Q: I’ve been wondering how to “regulate” hiring in order to make a team more diverse and inclusive. When asked, (almost) every company would say that they are doing their best, but still, it seems like the “usual suspects” keep getting hired / promoted. Why is that and what could be done? Making it mandatory to stick to an internal quota?

Jossie: This question is near and dear to my heart as its my current struggle. This happens cause it’s hard to change the recruiting process and it’s so much easier to fall back into the already existing processes and practices. You need commitment from both your hiring managers and the recruiters that diversity is truly important and a focus — if not the needle won’t move.

I think it’s 2 fold, ensuring enough candidates from diverse backgrounds are being considered, and then ensuring that the evaluation process is fair and focused on competencies instead of just experience and the interview team is aware of how bias can impact them and has taken the time to incorporate that into the feedback process.

You need someone willing to speak up and fight when they see this not happening — and that’s the hard part, it can become tiring and exhausting sometimes to be that person.

Looking to hire more diverse candidates? Here’s a list for DEI communities where you can go and meet people to foster those relationships even before you’re hiring.

😅 On almost quitting tech

Q: What made you nearly quit the tech industry as a woman? What things did not go well/were you missing? And how are you actively improving these in your new position at Tile?

Jossie: I call this one death by a thousand paper cuts. It wasn’t any one specific big thing but instead years of dealing with cultures where the guys would get invited out to drinks on weekends and I never was, being called feisty for standing up for myself on a call, people assuming I was non-technical when I walked into meetings, being told mentoring wasn’t something that was important or needed, to just name few. It eventually led me to feeling a lot of impostor syndrome about being able to manage successfully or wanting to work in tech.

I realized if I walked away I’d be walking away from impacting the future, so when I came back and joined Tile I wanted things to be different. We are taking the time to create an inclusive culture, we have a culture of speaking up if we see something wrong, and we’re working on creating a better pipeline and recruiting experience to be more equitable. It’s not perfect and a constant work in progress but we’ve created one of the most inclusive cultures I’ve seen in a tech company.

💪 On support systems for female leadership

Q: I’m curious if you have any advice on setting up support systems for other current & emerging female leaders? What do they look like when done well?

Jossie: Yes! If you can set up a sponsoring program where you can pair emerging female leaders with senior leaders in your company and they can get the visibility and be at the table and learn what’s going on it can be truly impactful.

Also realizing that as you go up in your career you may need to find mentors outside your company — I highly recommend female leaders creating their own personal board of directors including people from their external networks.

Jossie is one of the many leaders who share their advice in 2-min tips for Bunch. Download our AI Leadership Coach app to become a better leader in 2 minutes a day.

Want to get in touch with Jossie? Join our Teams at Work Slack community to talk to her and thousands of other leaders, too!

🐦 Follow me on Twitter or check out our YouTube channel for more content on tech leadership.

💌 You can also subscribe to The Weekly Briefing, my Sunday leadership newsletter.

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Darja Gutnick

Darja Gutnick

Co-founder, CEO at Bunch — Helping future leaders grow; bookworm, psychologist and relentless optimist. Grow | Inspire | Stay humble

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