Strength through diversity
As the CEO leading a diverse international team of professionals, I focus on recognizing and drawing upon the fantastic skills and ideas of my global team. Recently Snyk was recognized by Comparably for being #1 on Comparably‘s list (SMB) for Best Companies for Leadership Teams. In addition, two other achievements were awarded; As one of the top 25 CEOs to work for according to employees of color and one of the best CEOs to work for according to female employees.
This is a humbling honor for me to be leading such an amazing group of individuals. I recognize the real work happens with the managers and teams who work tirelessly every day to create an environment and culture that encourages open conversations, candor, and a chance to celebrate our diversity.
Since early in my career, my primary instinct is to not surround myself with people who think the same as I do, but instead surround myself with people who think differently.
With the diversity of thought, you add the diversity of geography within the company. Snyk has hubs in Israel, London, Ottawa, Boston, and California. We’ve always had this view that you hire the best people wherever you can find them. Now you have the diversity of culture, lifestyle, faith, and backgrounds.
It wasn’t anything I did. To me, an award for a CEO is really an award for the culture of the company, and the executive team, and the people around it. I don’t make all the decisions in the company. That’s made by people we’ve hired and people who’ve been in the company, who all want that type of environment. They want diversity. They want people of a different color, different faiths, and a different gender.
Snyk has always been a very open company. This was here before I arrived as CEO. When I was on the Board of Directors, I saw it. It has been in the culture of the company since the beginning. I just happened to be the guy in the seat at the time, but it’s really been a core tenant of Guy Podjarny and the founders very early on. They wanted to get people who challenge each other and who think differently. That comes in many different ways.
Oftentimes culture is associated with a place, or a group, or an environment. A lot of companies are dealing with cultural diversity in a remote work environment for the very first time because of COVID, but Snyk has been addressing remote workers since the beginning. We are making sure that biases don’t creep in, that the geography and differences don’t create silos but instead a culture of openness.
Culture is job #1
I believe this is the number one job of a CEO because everyone you hire is either going to help or hurt your culture. As people come in the culture evolves. It doesn’t stay still. Everyone you hire, hopefully, improves and evolves your culture as you grow as an organization and you mature. The things you did when you were small must change and your culture has to evolve. That’s number one.
The second part is the tendency in a lot of organizations to hire people they know. It’s a challenge in that you get really good people who you like and you trust and you work with. But you also tend to get people who are only in your network, limiting the potential field of candidates. You need to push to get outside of that to increase diversity. When you open up to different geographies, typically you’re outside of your network. In a tech world, to get diversity, you have to go outside of your network, because most of the network of people who’ve been in the tech for a while, which isn’t highly dominated by a very diverse group of people, historically.
While it’s changing now and changing at a fast pace, it hasn’t been the best for demonstrating diversity. This means you really need to focus on the number one process in the company, which is hiring, making sure you’re really good people, but good culture fit, meaning people who improve the culture of the organization, making it better and works well with others to drive kind of a place that everybody wants to be at. For me, this is the most important job I have in the company.
There are some things that we put into place to make sure that this hiring process reaches outside our traditional network, the network of the hiring manager, the network of the executive team.
We hired really good recruiters who are tapping into diverse organizations like women in technology, black leadership organizations, and participating extensively in gay Pride events and in networks where people who are passionate to help foster it and to help recruit. It takes that extra effort to get it right, but that’s something that everybody here is passionate about. We set very aggressive goals around diversity, and we’re challenging ourselves, the team, to continue to improve on it as we go.
One of these ideas that I felt was incredibly important because it had an impact on me early in my career that is providing unconscious bias training for all my hiring managers as well as the executive team.
This was the one thing that I thought was able to move the needle, to really make a difference. I remember the first time I took this unconscious bias class. It just opened my eyes. There are so many things that we do unintentionally, and I was so offended at my own behavior. It was like, “Holy cow, I can’t believe I didn’t recognize that some of the things I was doing weren’t right.”
You were discriminating, whether it’s the way you write job descriptions, or the language you use, and the networks you recruit from. It was like someone turned the light on in the room and showed that it’s unconscious.
When you want to really make a difference, you have to be open to learning if there’s something that you’re doing wrong, then you have to change, you have to alter.
People want to do what’s right
For us, it’s not just the hiring managers, but the hiring managers and the executives, we’re all going through it. I’m going to do it again because you pick off two or three things you realize, but there were probably five or six others that you just didn’t get to because the other three were too significant. You just keep working, and you keep working at it. I think over time, you start making a bigger difference.
But it ultimately comes down to the people in your organization, because people drive it. We have a really good group of people who want that diversity, who want the differences, and want people to challenge and question things.
I love it when people stop me and have a different view than I have. I never want to surround myself with people who are Yes people. I want people who think completely differently than I do. Because that’s the only way you come to the right answers.
I have a team of 13 direct reports. They’re all different. They’re all very diverse being located in four or five different countries around the world. Because that’s what I love about the job. I love the diversity side of things. It’s the diversity of the way people think about things and solve problems.
It’s this diversity and openness that has allowed the leadership team at Snyk to be recognized as #1.