Driving Innovation Through Diversity
“There’s a pure and simple business case for diversity: Companies that are more diverse are more successful.”
— Mindy Grossman, CEO of Weight Watchers
The United States has long been the land of the free, the creative and inventive. We believe it is only through a wide variety of backgrounds, world views, experiences, and cultures that we experience optimal problem solving and brainstorming. Diversity is proven to lead to better market results. As a startup, Misty Robotics must be highly creative and inventive to create differentiation amongst the titans of industry and to create long-term sustainable value.
Diversity at Misty Robotics
At Misty, we believe that diversity of our workforce is vital to our future business success.
This stems from the fact that our business value depends on differentiation and long-term sustainable value and creating a product that maps well to a diverse marketplace.
Diversity at Misty Robotics means a conscious desire to construct our workforce to include an optimal mix of sexes, races, religions, sexual orientations, political beliefs and world views. Our team already includes a good mix of these elements, and we’re continuing to add to it.
Our recruiting team targets a wide array of profiles for each of the roles we fill — we constantly see women, various nationalities, languages and ethnicities among the mix for each position. This requires searching far and wide — for each position at least 30% of our candidate base is outside of Colorado. Our #1 goal is to fill each role with the absolute best talent, which we believe comes with great variety. Do we take longer than the average company to fill a role? Yes. Does it require more effort to screen and conduct early interviews? Absolutely. And, we are convinced this effort will yield far better results.
Diversity at Misty Robotics also means fostering an environment where everyone is safe to practice and celebrate their beliefs. We do specific work at the company to promote understanding and empathy for every colleague. We create myriad opportunities for dialog as part of our overall effort on teamwork, from initial sharing during onboarding, to “two lies and a truth” to learn about people as they come into the company, to encouraging employees hobbies to unfold around work. We encourage individual contributions to our environment which, often, comes from each person’s worldview. We’re fortunate to have constructed a highly respectful team so far.
Our investors, Foundry Group and Venrock, have a public and firm stance on diversity as well. They are clear believers in our beliefs and, on the flip side, have a “zero tolerance policy” for environments that overtly discriminate. This creates clear alignment between shareholders and management on its importance.
Why I Support Diversity
I’ve believed in diversity since before I can remember. My law-school-grad dad marched in Selma and provided free legal aid for farm workers and my PoliSci Ph.D. mom worked in farm labor camps and sat on the first Boulder City Council with an African American mayor and gay city councilman. I was involved in early efforts at Apple Computer to reach out to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), doing several on-campus recruiting trips in my time there. My wife and I started the local LGBTQ fundraising dinner (Monsoon). Currently, I’m an active investor and advisor to several startups with diverse leaders — Fanzee (social media), IOTAS (smart home) and Techtonic Group.
I’m especially excited about the work of Techtonic Group — the reason I joined the Advisory Board is because they have created a paid apprentice program that brings an under-represented demographic of society into the global tech economy. Techtonic has apprenticed more than 20 apprentices with African American, LGBT, military veteran, high school GEDs, women and even ex-convicts. They have an opportunity to show many of us, including Misty Robotics, how to enhance our results by bringing aspiring engineers with different backgrounds on our journey.
Expanding Our Team
I’m excited to announce that last week we hired two such apprentices — Lauren and Erin. We worked with Techtonic and their master-developer Will who, along with our team, has apprenticed Lauren and Erin for the last 4 months. Lauren was working in retail, but wanted a more project-oriented career where she could express her creativity and utilize her problem solving skills. After graduating with an MBA, Erin was working in finance and enjoyed the logic behind spreadsheets but felt her family would be better off if she were in tech. Both were starting to do some self-teaching of HTML and coding. Neither, however, had the wherewithal to pay $10-$20K for a coding bootcamp. They were stuck.
Then they saw the Techtonic ad for apprentices. The government subsidy enabled both to get into the program for $2,500 (which they quickly earned back with higher hourly wages as they progressed in their apprenticeship). They both lobbied internally at Techtonic to work at Misty Robotics when the opportunity came along. “This has been really hard,” said both of them, “a much steeper growth curve than I imagined at the outset.” Despite the challenge, both Lauren’s and Erin’s motivation, drive and work ethic has been outstanding and they have proven to us that they’re ready to be on the first technical rung in our company. Both are ecstatic — doing work that is, now, beyond their wildest dreams.
Diversity Needs To Be a Priority for All Companies
If our country can find a path to enable non-engineering graduates to be highly productive technologists we’ve raised the water, and thus all boats.
Many companies talk about the importance of diversity but they fail to understand the meaningful business and human reasons for doing so. Many promote their efforts but few invest in recruiting efforts like we have. Others indicate their leadership team are bought in but few have the level of alignment with their shareholders. And individual leaders of businesses often give lip service to diversity without devoting meaningful personal time and action to follow through on their words.
We are excited about the future we are driving toward — a future that is not only open to all, but highly encouraged for all to join.
Having been around this startup block four times now, I’ve seen how much better are the decisions, the customer experience, and the product quality when a vibrantly diverse team comes together to deliver excellence. We will continue to put as many actions into motion as our words convey.
- Tim Enwall, Head of Company