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Ep.22 Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

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In this episode of the Cybrary Podcast, we sit down with Solene, the marketing director of Knogin, Cami Ragano, the Senior Director of Enterprise Marketing, Amanda Davi, the Director of Business Development and Danyelle Wilson, the Customer Success Manager all from Cybrary. Together, they discuss the importance of inclusion and diversity in tech, touching on crucial topics like the importance of women having access to mentorship opportunities and how individuals can help promote diversity in the workplace.

Hosted by: Cami Ragano, Amanda Davi, Danyelle Wilson, Solene Gabellec
Length: 33 minutes
Released on: May 6th, 2020
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In this podcast, Cybrary and Knogin representatives share their thoughts and enthusiasm on encouraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace, especially in empowering more women to lead their career path towards the technical industry. One of which can begin by creating community programs or sessions to influence the ideas and interests of young girls at an early age to consider future plans into the technical field. It is also important to build up women’s confidence to take up more leading job positions in the industry to become a strong and inspiring role model and/or mentor to the future generations of women in tech.

Work environments that lack diversity can be a great challenge for the minorities who feel like they do not have a voice to express their ideas or opinions, and the worst part is the feeling of discrimination due to stereotypical thinking. This is why it is important to have the support and understanding of top level management in a company to bring about change so that at a very early stage, the work environment is nurtured to become a comfortable, acceptable, and diverse culture that enables everyone to feel inclusive and allows individuals to feel empowered to want to achieve great things that could benefit the industry.

Sustaining women in the tech field has also proven to be another challenge because so far there is still a lack of support for women to maintain their top-level profession or for women that still aim to develop themselves in their profession due to commitments that may sometimes cause a struggle in their work-life balance. However, with the continuous awareness and valuable support system of many individuals sharing this cause, it is very exciting to see what the future will bring to instigate this change for more diversity and inclusion in the workplace that greatly impacts women in tech.


Amanda: All right, everyone. Welcome back to the Cybrary Podcast. Today, we're talking about women and diversity in tech. So, my name is Amanda Davi. I'm the Director of Business Development here at Cybrary.

Cami: My name is Cami Ragano. I am the Senior Director of Enterprise Marketing here at Cybrary.

Danyelle: My name's Danyelle Wilson. I am the Manager of Customer Success here at Cybrary.

Solene: And my name is Solene Gabellec. I'm French and I am the Marketing Manager at Knogin, we’re a SIEM startup based in Costa Rica.

Amanda: Excellent. Love it. All right. So, maybe we can start talking about a little bit as to what Knogin does. Do you think that'd be a good place to start? and then what you do there specifically, and then we can sort of go into the rest of the topic.

Solene: Sure. So, we’re a SIEM startup. So, basically we provide SIEM solution, but also threat detection, behavioral analysis for SMB level. So, basically these kinds of tools were before only for enterprise level companies; and we decided that not only enterprise could have a good tool to detect threats and detect them very early on and also respond to them. So, we developed this tool called CyberEasy for SMB-type of companies. And I'm the Marketing Manager, so I started about a year and a half ago when we were very, very new, and we were just 3 or 4 employees. So I was a Marketing Assistant, and for about the last 5-6 months, I'm now in charge of the whole Marketing department. So, it has been a big challenge, but also a very, very interesting experience so far.

Amanda: That's awesome. And so I guess prior to being at Knogin, had you worked in the tech space before that?

Solene: Not at all. That’s the thing. So I was studying, finishing my Master degree in Costa Rica and I wanted to stay there just because I love working and living abroad. And I had this opportunity for a cybersecurity company and my first thought was, but I really have no idea what cybersecurity industry is or cybersecurity in general. And I always have been very involved in empowering and promoting women in all kind of areas in general, and especially now in Latin America area. And my thought was, well, if you're always fighting for it and promoting it, then cybersecurity is actually an industry where we have one of the lowest rate of women. So you should definitely take the challenge and try to find your way in and see if you can make a difference. So, that's how it started.

Amanda: Yeah. Cool. I think it's always interesting to hear just how other women get involved in tech, especially, so, all of us, we're all customer facing, not necessarily, you know, behind the keyboard, but still playing a big role within the tech space. So, I know for me and Cami, we both just kind of out of college, fell into a cyber job or a cyber company I should say, and just have kind of been here ever since. So, it's always interesting to hear how people come about that.

Danyelle: Yeah. This is actually my second SAS company that I'm working for. So, you know, it's like you said, we have a vital role in tech companies, even if we're not necessarily technicians or, you know, different engineers and stuff. So, I think women play a huge role.

Solene: That, actually, what you're just saying it's literally why they hired me at first. I very honestly and openly said to my boss and the CEO of the company, Ken Gilmour, I was like, well, are you aware that I'm not from a tech field. And he was like, yes, but the thing is, as we want to go to SMB market, SMB very often they don't have the internal resources to have cybersecurity experts. So, it's very, I mean the hypermobility that the people in the SMB, they don't really know either about cybersecurity. So, how are we going to market to them and how are we going to communicate to them if we're only expert? So, this is why it was also my role to give a different voice to our company and that's really the definition of Knogin, is going out of the stereotypes of the industry. So, we stop with hackers in hoodies. We stop with black scary messaging, and we want to go and give a better and a more approachable vision of cybersecurity.

Amanda: Yeah, I like that. And I think, especially trying to get more women involved in those technical roles, it's really important to be able to communicate effectively, you know, what the industry is actually like and how people can get involved, because if they are not breaking it down, I think that is in itself a big barrier for people when they're coming onto the field; it’s like very overwhelming as to where you start, what you do, and I think that's a huge part. Even what we do here at Cybrary, I think makes a huge difference in that with our introductory courses and things along those lines; just really breaking it down for people to sort of see themselves in that role and representation is really important. Well, so another thing that we want to talk about, so in that same respect of having more women in tech, and I think a lot of benefit can come from, you know, empowering the women who are there, kind of like us who are on more of the communication-focus, but also giving them sort of a pathway to becoming a coder or hands-on-keyboard, whatever it is that they want to do. So I guess, have you seen anything like that? That you felt really works for companies or have any opinions on that? Anyone?

Solene: Well, so I’m pretty proud of our startup because we are at 25 to 30 employees and we literally have 50% of women and 50% of men. And not only in marketing communication, we do have a lot of women in the technical team; almost the half of it actually. What I saw that really works and I think it's the key of it, is that from very early stage in the company, the board, the 4 people members of the board, were conscious about these issues, their conscious about these challenges, and they actively and proactively decided that this will be one of our value and one of our mission as a company. So, it's not only, I mean, if you're alone as a woman in any kind of company that you're working in tech and the board and the top level management are not conscious and not really into it, it's going to be way harder; the chance and the opportunity that we have is from the very top management level. They're aware of these issues and they want to fight it.

Danyelle: I mean, I think everyone has an opportunity as women to make an impact in tech. I think our poster child, Gabby, she was so motivational to so many different women, just to see how easily she was able to pick this up and get a job in the field. And I think that was very inspirational for a lot of women to say that they too could get into this industry, which is typically male-dominated. So, I think you just have to go against the stereotypes and go into an industry that you're not necessarily going to be familiar with or have a lot of other women or peers in that industry, but you're kind of breaking that ice.

Cami: Yeah. And I think it's really important to take advantage of the resources that are available to you. I know that like we work with quite a few different women organizations, which empower women to be in the cybersecurity and technical field, which is amazing. And just doing research about those things and, you know, having like a training platform and like, just if you want to get your hands in it, like see what it's all about, learn about it, and then reach out. That's exactly what Gabby did. She just reached out to us and, you know, we started working with her because she really wanted to be involved in what Cybrary’s core missions were. So, being able to utilize, I think, those resources and knowing that they are available is a really great way to also look in to get into the industry.

Amanda: I think too, and what we always talk about here is like accessibility and breaking down the barriers of entry to the industry, and that's a lot of what we do. And so I think, part of my role within Cybrary is to seek out those organizations that are occupying those spaces and to bring the word there because you know, you can rely on people to come to you for certain things, but at the end of the day, it's also just making sure that you’re being inclusive within the partnerships that we are forming with women, groups that leverage different benefits for minorities, and things like that. It's just really important to, like Cami said, just kind of do your research on those organizations, and try to bring as much as you can to them.

Solene: Also thinking about the other aspect of it, I think one is mentorship. How once you're in there, as a woman, not that it's an obligation, but it's still, I really highly promote and in my team, in the marketing but also in the tech, that as women we support each other. That the junior that just entering that are just like you a couple of years ago, they feel like they can make it as well, because you've been there. You know, how not skilled enough or how not good enough you feel, so don't make them feel this way. Support them and make them grow, and the more you can be a mentor or you look for a mentor as well, because that's one of the big issue, there is not so much representations. So, the more you can empower these people to be mentors or to, in the future, then the impact will be way higher, I guess.

Danyelle: Yeah, I totally agree. And I think we can start making it more of a norm at an earlier age. Working in the Customer Success team, I was fortunate enough to work with our Girl Scouts collaboration, that I think you set up Amanda, and we were doing a coding camp, I believe for some of the Girls Scouts of America. And I think introducing it to them at that young age really will kind of change the narrative that cybersecurity is only for men, or this is a more male-dominated field, and like really empower them to kind of see this in their future.

Amanda: And I think back to sort of the mentorship thing, I think so many people think of mentorship as, you know, following somebody's career footsteps or, you know, getting the right advice as to what you should be learning or what new skills you should be honing in on. And I think a big part of it, especially for women is mentorship around like the interpersonal struggles of being a woman in tech. And it's so much more than like advice around your job, but just interacting and overcoming challenges within a workspace, being the minority within the group, I think is really important to that type of support; is crucial for sure.

Solene: Completely. The second aspect that I was thinking, as well. So, I don't know, in the United States, how you handle this guys, but in Costa Rica and at Knogin as well, what we are trying to do as a company and the country also, really, I feel like this is the way we're going, is that not to tolerate any kind of discriminations or when you see something that, you know, it's not okay and we're so used to it. I mean, as women, as women of color; we're just used to it; it's normal; it's part of daily life; well, it's not and should not be part of our life. And there is something, it's not easy I mean, it really depends on your situation and it takes a lot of courage, but it's something that I'm really in a mission for that, that I don't allow any kind of jokes or any kind of comment that I think would hurt my female coworkers, that it's just not; I don't let this go. And then 1,2,3, done, then it actually disappears because I have the support of the top management team. That's why I was saying earlier, it's way easier when you have a top management that share your thoughts.

Amanda: Yeah. I agree with that. Yeah, I think here, you know, we definitely have the support of our upper management as well and just even having kind of the grassroots of like a really supportive HR foundation as well. Shout out to Katie, we have an amazing Director of HR here. And even just our executives, like we said, Cybrary was founded on inclusivity and bringing training opportunities to anybody regardless of where they were in the world and so I've seen that definitely take place within just the culture of our organization and all pieces of it. And so, yeah, thankfully they've all been very supportive in all of these different types of initiatives, but you know, other women at organizations aren't as lucky as we are, so I think it's important. Like you said, no matter where you go or who you're talking to, just having somebody back and not being afraid to say something, especially when you do have the backing of supportive management.

Solene: Exactly, when you have the privilege and the backing of speaking out loud, I mean, you should do it, definitely.

Amanda: I’m with you on that. So, another question that we were thinking about was just more on the diversity and of the spectrum. You know, companies are always trying to highlight their diversity initiatives, show, you know, them being inclusive, and I think we kind of see that there's a balance between like tokenizing your diverse people within your organization, but then actually like proving that you're, you know, putting policies in place or you're making the real changes rather than just kind of like showing it on social media.

Solene: Having two women on the picture.

Amanda: But, yeah, and also I thought maybe we could talk a little bit about that and just, you know, the challenges that companies face when they're promoting diversity; just really trying to get that word out there.

Danyelle: I think from a personal aspect, being probably one of the largest minorities in this office, as a black woman, I hadn't felt any differences. And I think that's really what speaks to it. You know, it's one thing to just hire someone that's diverse having them in the office, but, you know, depends on how you're feeling in the environment; if you're being accepted, if the things that you're doing; wearing how you represent yourself; are judged or anything like that. And it's really important to be in an environment that you obviously are not feeling that way. And I appreciate that here, but I can't say that's been my experience at every role or every organization.

Cami: So, how have you seen, like, other companies or Cybrary cultivate that type of environment?

Danyelle: I honestly think inclusivity isn't something you can really teach people. It’s something that they have to genuinely believe. And it's a very real feeling that you feel from someone if they accept you or not, essentially. And I think that goes with all things diverse, not just being black or white or anything like that; anything that you decide is how you represent yourself should be completely accepted, and I think it's really about more of a feeling than it is an action. So, like, if I felt that what I was doing or how I was presenting myself was not being received by my peers, I think that will make me uncomfortable. Whereas, if it's the complete opposite, you understand that there's no one will be judging or putting you in that kind of box; the stereotyping. So, I think it is actions that do it, but you can't say one thing is what makes you feel this way, right? It's like an all around; and the relationships you have with people. And at other companies I've been in it's very obvious, you know, when someone feels away about something that is not inclusive or not what they're agreeing on. And I think we do a really good job about making everybody feel included here and making sure everyone feels like they're not any different than anyone else, no matter what their diversity is, and so that definitely I can appreciate.

Solene: Being based in Costa Rica and so being; I'm including myself as a Latina, but I'm not; I mean we're all in Costa Rica, Central America, so we’re already a minority, you know, just by where we are based. So we don't really have these as; I mean, 90% of our office in Costa Rica are Costa Ricans or from different Latin American countries. But yeah, it's also in, I guess, in Human Resources when I hire people for my team; I hire for skills, technical skills, but definitely and highly human skills or human assets. I mean, there are always people that know how to do the job, I believe. But, the quality of the people or the quality of the values of the people you are hiring are going to make such a difference. So, that's also something that I'll definitely pick people also based on the way they see an organization should work and the way they interact with others and other peoples’ differences.

Danyelle: And maybe that is one way you can kind of express it with your actions, right? Like if we have a standard of how we're hiring, you have to be a critical thinker. You have to be outgoing, things like that. It doesn't matter how you represent yourself as long as you're representing those values. And I think as long as we're hiring on that thought-in-mind versus kind of how you're presenting yourself, that's really an action that you're taking to show you're inclusive.

Cami: And we have, you know, one guiding principle here and it's never let your teammates down. And that, like, takes a form in so many different ways on how you continue to, you know, work with your team and not let them down or it's not just one thing you can do, it’s like who you are, and how you perform, and what you do.

Danyelle: Exactly. That's not something you can just say, right? It's all about how you're carrying yourself and the things you're doing within the organization. So, you have to kind of show it.

Amanda: And I think too, just kind of getting back to like the tech roots of all of this, it's like when you're hiring for diverse backgrounds, I mean, everybody knows statistically, that's been proven to just improve just communication and brainstorming within your organization. You know, when you're hiring people from all different areas of life, it is proven to benefit your product at the end of the day, because you kind of avoid that group-think mentality of just one type of person, if you're not looking to hire outside of that. So. kind of going back to what you said, it's very much a conscious effort starting at the very beginning to make that a priority for your organization.

Solene: And it's, it's something I don't really understand how a company could actually cut themselves from the amazing benefit of having such a diversity of people thinking differently with different backgrounds because they all have their own stories. So the more diverse a team is the more innovative it's going to be. So, even for your own company on a very rational business point-of-view, it's just amazing to have people with different ideas, different perception; they're going to see an issue or problem, and they're going to think on a different way about it. And that is brilliant. I mean, I guess for any kind of company nowadays with the digital world we're living in and the international world we're living in; like basing yourself on just one type of person. It's almost, I don't know.

Danyelle: And I think that's probably where a lot of the time; there's a lot of issues with diversity inclusion cause there's people that don't think that way; there's people who feel that there is only a certain group or set of people who have the right thoughts, especially in tech, you can be very closed-minded. You know, you're in a space where it's very like cut-and-dry as to what's right and wrong almost, or, you know, tech background is very like black and white, essentially. Like it is right or wrong if you're doing these things. And some people don't think that other people outside of that space have a good opinion on it, whereas I think we've been able to prove that that's completely untrue. And I think that's a lot of cases in some, some businesses, particularly when I was at previously, where they don't really value everyone's thoughts or opinion on everything, because they don't value who it's coming from; not what you're saying. And basically because of who you are, what you represent, your thoughts and ideas can't be validated. And that's where I think we have a lot of issues with diversity within the workspace, not here, but in the industry.

Amanda: Yeah. And so do you think, like being at that or thinking back to that organization, is there anything that you can think of maybe unique ways that organizations can kind of come back from that or even just getting more diversity within your organization? I feel like for us, you know, we're still a really small team as well. I know we have a global presence at Cybrary but internally where we're still pretty small. And so we're kind of at the forefront of that for our organization, kind of building those partnerships and getting within those communities and doing what we can. So I know going from here, it's only going to get bigger. But you know, there's definitely something to say about what other ways companies can go about.

Danyelle: I think it's awareness. It’s the number one thing, bringing it to everyone's attention, because if you are the minority, you're typically the only person feeling that way. So, you have to express that so that other people who are open-minded can help you make a change. In that organization, I actually was one of the founders of our diversity team and diversity in leadership. So we then, after a few people expressed it and then it kinda got published in the news. And I won't say who, but basically that there were no women on the board in an industry that is typically women-dominated. So, there had to be a change, essentially. They kind of had no choice but to address it. And so then once the awareness was brought out and sometimes a lot of times in these situations, people are scared to speak up to their upper level management, especially in super strict corporate environments. And so until you bring that awareness and start making an action for change, those people are still just going to continue to feel that type of way. In a lot of times, not going to be bold enough to step up and talk about it. So, sometimes it takes people who are outside of the minority to recognize it, right? So like, there are other people within the organization that have open minds, but maybe aren't in leadership or maybe aren't making the direct influences to the minorities in the organization. So those people have to then step up and start making that communication and awareness to everyone else so that the change can be started somewhere.

Amanda: And I think there's something to say for that, not even just within an organization, just in general, like diversity and supporting minorities and just being that ally. And if you are blessed to have that opportunity to have your voice be heard by the people that are instilling that change, like you have to kind of step up and be that voice and not be afraid to say something.

Danyelle: Exactly. And a lot of times it will be more impactful that’s not coming from the person who's suffering from it, right? Like, because you don't want to seem like you're complaining or trying to get pity from anyone. But, if someone who actually believes in what you're trying to stand up for, speaks about it, and they're not the minority that kind of helps bring awareness to other people that are like them. And I think that's really important to do within a workplace because it just takes one person kind of making the awareness, starting the awareness, right, for it to kind of get contagious in the space.

Amanda: Yeah, it's not just one person's issue.

Danyelle: Exactly.

Solene: I'll say yes and no. I mean, I'll say yes and no to that yet, just because I'm thinking if a male would actually speak up for myself. I will still get pretty annoyed that like, they'll listen to them because he's a man, but I do understand your point as well, but I'll be like, I can do it. Like it's the same. So, it might be a good starting point, but there's also, I mean, and we know that. I guess that's also, as you're not part of the minority, so you have more visibility. So, how good it feels to feel validated and to have the space to speak up. So, why would you give up the space then if everybody's looking at you and encourage or saying like, Oh yeah, that's great, what you're saying and wow. So, maybe as an ally that’ll be good to start spinning about the issue or the concern, but very quickly, I'll say it's also a very important part the job to just like step next to the actual minority and give them the space, like appropriate the space but then, you know, you're not the one actually suffering from it. So just step back and give the light to the one that deserves it.

Amanda: With you on that. Let's see. I think we kind of touched on all of this. Did you have anything on yours?

Solene: Having another subject because I'm very, I'm super happy to see that we're four young ladies and we're very motivated, I guess, and aware. I'm not sure. I don't know if like 30 years ago, 15 years ago, that was the same, I don't know. But I'm very, I mean, it really makes me feel super happy, about also the researches I made before doing this episode. I see that we’re getting better in tech to have more women, but it's still junior level and we have, I think it was, a 50% of women leave the field of tech industry after some time, especially, and, and we still are struggling when top executive level. So, I'm very happy to see us. I'm just hoping to see you in like 10,15 years as top role models, but it's also, there is like, I guess now I feel like it's changing, but it's changing on the base level. I'm not still completely sure on what can we do to have this representation and have these role models when it comes to very like top executive management role. I mean, I don't have kids or anything, but I guess it's also, you know, it has to be like such a deeper issue.

Amanda: Yeah. I think that's a huge part of it and not wanting to like, only say women with kids are experiencing this issue, but I think that is a huge part of it just like work balance; family life. And especially since the tech industry is newer, you know, given the last like, 10-20 years, this big kind of Silicon Valley boom, that's happening (still happening), it's like there are no real procedures or processes in place at an HR level for women who are having kids. So it's like, you know, we're starting at our careers here and so if we do choose to have a family at any point, you know, that support is very much lacking and I know that's a huge, you know, U.S issue as opposed to worldwide. But it's, you know, say if Danyelle wants to go ahead and start a family; if she's at an organization that doesn't support, I guess, doesn't give her the support that she needs to then come back and continue her career. You know, you need to have that support in place to be able to go and take that time, but also be able to jump right back in with your family and be able to continue to that executive level position. And I think that's where you see a lot of people drop off is because they're not getting that support. And that's just one component of it. Again, I don't want to make it, like, a family thing, but it's yeah, it's definitely a huge part of it.

Danyelle: Yeah, it’s a huge part of inclusion cause we're the only ones that would have to go through that, right? So, a man doesn't need 3 months off of work to care for their newborn even if they are a husband or anything.

Solene: That would be amazing. Yeah.

Danyelle: Right. And so they're not having this big gap in their career or anything like that, or them having to balance; for a lot of single moms taking care and raising children on their own and working and balancing their work life.

Amanda: It's like such a culture, like a burnout culture. And that does not jive with raising a family or putting any type of other priorities before that. So, I think that's a huge part of it.

Solene: But that could be amazing though, is that our generation that now is aware of that. And we see these women, I mean, we already are, and we should even do it more, but like we're helping each other, we're supporting each other. So, if we keep doing that during our whole career then hopefully, I mean, we're also going to make the change; I mean, the more we grow as a professional. So, this female top-executive level that we don't really see, I mean, I want to believe that it's going to be us at some point, honestly. Let’s be ready for it. But that's definitely; if we just need to also keep empowering each other, I guess all the way.

Amanda: Yeah. I think everything we've talked about has like, kind of come back to that, just supporting each other and that mentorship that's not just about career moves, but also the resources that we all need to be successful, that everyone needs and is entitled to.

Cami: In conclusion, women are amazing. Hire more of them.

Solene: Go for it. More diversity, more innovation, more money.

Danyelle: Yeah, absolutely. I'm with that.

Amanda: That was women in tech with Knogin and Cybrary. So, thanks so much for listening and tune in next time.

Danyelle: Thanks. Bye.