Continuing Our Commitment to Diversity in Engineering

Introducing The Mango Team

Last year at Gusto we formed the Engineering Diversity Steering Committee, informally known as the Mango Team. Why mango? Because at Gusto, we tend to name our inclusivity initiatives after fruit. You’ll have to join us to learn why that is 😉

The women of Gusto’s Payroll Engineering Team

What is the Mango Team?

We are a cross-functional team between Engineering and Recruiting. Currently, the team includes:

The team focus is solely on diversity within the engineering organization. According to the data, we see this area as needing the most help, and over the years we’ve already invested in a variety of programs that changed the composition of our team from 11% women engineers in 2015 to 24% today. While we will work on many aspects of diversity this year, until the end of this quarter we will focus on gender diversity, specifically filling senior roles on our engineering team.

Our goals are both high-level and tactical. As we know well, role models and sponsors are key parts of a well-rounded career, and we aim to provide support and ensure upward mobility for our existing female engineers.

You can’t be what you can’t see

The Mango Team was formed after a frank 1-on-1 that I had with our CTO and co-founder Eddie Kim. I expressed disappointment about the lack of diversity in both the managerial and technical tracks on Gusto’s engineering leadership. How could I feel that I belonged and that I could drive my career forward when there were no female leaders around me? I also felt concerned about the lack of role models for our female engineers, the majority of whom are within the first 2 levels (out of 6 levels total) of our internal career levels.

Illustration by Jonas Mosesson

This wasn’t an easy conversation to have and I had to consider carefully the consequences of “rocking the ⛵️” or appearing to complain too much, at a company where I had barely spent 3 months.

My ask of Eddie was to form a team to focus on solving this problem. In the lead up to my meeting with Eddie, I spoke with a few senior women engineers at Gusto who had championed this cause in the past. They had worked hard in this area but it had become unsustainable given their full-time responsibilities. I came to realize that we can’t rely solely on champions and needed to devise a sustainable effort with tangible goals.

Julia Lee is the first female engineer at Gusto, and has championed efforts around diversity in the past

The outcome of that conversation was more than I could have asked for. Eddie was not only empathetic, but also supportive of my ask. We brainstormed about who should be on the team and he spearheaded forming the team and the logistics around it.

Illustration by JLR Reyes

My career coding professionally is coming up on 12 years now and I have driven similar initiatives in the past. I did not expect that a co-founder and CTO would be willing to get personally involved to tackle and issue raised by an engineer. It was a pleasant surprise that Eddie was so open to taking action on this issue.

Mango Team Goals

Our high level objectives fall into two categories:

  1. Hiring engineering candidates from underrepresented groups, specifically for senior roles
  2. Improving upward mobility of people from underrepresented groups on our engineering team

As an engineering organization we have made a lot of progress in this area already. We have come a long way since 2015, when only 11% of the engineering was women. Currently 24% of our engineering team are women, 29% of engineers who joined us last year were women, and our cohort of new graduate hires last year was 50% women.

Gusto engineering levels range from 1 to 6, with 1 being a new graduate engineer. As such, our tangible goals by the end of this quarter are to:

  • Increase the percentage of women in level 3 and above to 42% of all female engineers
  • Increase women in engineering leadership staff to two

A culture of less talking and more doing 
We understand that there is a lot of advice out there about how to achieve diversity goals. However, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution that works overnight, we’ve adopted a scrum-like iterative work management strategy, with low process overhead. We maintain a backlog of strategies and learnings and the team meets every 2 weeks where we assign owners to tasks from the backlog.

Our operating philosophies are:

Data first 
We take a data-first approach to understand the extent of the issue and most importantly, to create tangible goals against which we could measure our progress. We have looked at various types of data, including analyzing our interview process to understand whether we disproportionately lose female candidates at a certain step. We aim to treat each task on our backlog as an experiment and move forward only if we succeed on a small sample.

Be scrappy 
Given each team member has a different full-time role, the goal is to be as scrappy as possible and prioritize techniques that will be most effective. We also try to leverage other company resources to achieve our goals by raising awareness through presentations and other forms of outreach. It’s okay to ask for help!

We have received various offers of help: from individual engineers on our team, to experimental advertising budget from the People Team, to resources for organizing events from the Pineapple Team (our company-wide D&I committee) Illustration by Camellia Neri.

How we plan to achieve our goals

Keep learning 
We bring in diversity experts from leading companies such as Pinterest to advise us on various strategies. We gather feedback from female engineers about our hiring process. We speak with Gusties who have experience tackling these issues at other startups. We use all these sources to feed back into our backlog.

Balance the pipeline 
We focus on finding ways to bolster support for the recruiting team. Internally, we encourage people to make referrals and introductions to candidates to drum up interest. We examine our interview process for bias by looking at the data and gathering feedback from senior engineers about whether it appeals to experienced candidates.

Reach out with care 
We believe that candidates considering new roles want to know that we care. That’s why we invest in external communication and discussion. That includes focusing on our content — for example, supporting female engineers who already love technical writing or speaking, periodic profiling of women in engineering, and storytelling as a means of encouragement and inspiration. We also foster discussion by organizing events around various themes related to career development.

Develop from within 
As much as we have company leadership buy-in, we want buy-in from our engineering managers (or PEs, as we call them, which stands for People Empowerers) to help steer and guide career development. That’s why we encourage experienced engineers to be sponsors and mentors through our Engineering Mentorship program.

Illustration Camellia Neri

Gusto Engineering has come a long way since only 11% of the team were women. While it’s exciting that we are now at 24% women engineers and we’re proud of the strides that we’ve made, we also recognize that we still have a lot work to do, particularly when it comes to racial diversity. As we keep tracking the data on the Mango Team, I am excited to continue learning and sharing what works. 🚀

Come join us! We are hiring. 🙌🏼

About the Author 
Upeka is a software engineer from San Francisco. She’s passionate about frontend tech, engineering excellence and diversity in engineering. She’s an avid plant assassin.


Originally published at engineering.gusto.com on March 5, 2018.