Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I love diversity

One of my favorite sites, Worthwhile had a great forum question on diversity. That question spawned this rant... (you Worthwhile folks only have yourself to blame). :)

I remember when I was doing pre-sales work for Microsoft, and I told my boss that my goal was to approximate a decision he would make, and make it myself, thereby reducing my need to go to him for all things big and small.

He didn’t like that… and for good reason.

Why? A single important, but confused and misguided word: diversity. His point was that without diversity of thought, we would continue down the path we are on doing the same things we are doing today without thought of how to improve, etc. How stupid was I? Very, very, painfully stupid. Now don’t get me wrong, we were less than diverse when you looked at us. We were all middle-aged, white males, living upper-middle class lives (or higher, depending upon how long you had been there and how good the options were to you). ;)

Now I understand. I sit here on my way into work getting ready to spend a day (as I do every day) with serious diversity. Here’s our team in a nutshell (including me):

* Techy geek with lots of varying experience (if it’s technology and they haven’t used it, it doesn’t exist).
* A mathematical mind unparalleled in my experience, and with over 25 years of service at our employer.
* Geek with a personality, good leadership abilities, also good architectural/strategic/visionary mind.
* Ex-Navy Nuclear Submarine engine room person. Left the Navy, moved on to public sector nuclear work, then eventually to technology.
* High horsepower technical person, also good personality. Good consulting experience.
* High touch, people person. Well versed in high-end technology, great coordinator.
* Operational technician, lots of previous experience in current role, the bedrock of support on our team.

Note, I’ve not talked about gender, race, sexual-preference, education, pedigree, etc. Here are some other attributes:

* 1 – 50’s, 2 – 40’s, 2 – 30’s, 2 – 20’s (these are guesses, I’m not really sure)
* 6 married, 4 of those have kids
* 1 graduate degree (UVa MBA), 2 Undergrad Degrees, 4 Some or no college
* 6 white, 1 non-white (this is a guess too)
* 5 male, 2 female

I would love to have people play the mix and match to see what attributes they thought fit with whom. So what does any of the info in the second list have to do with the attributes in the first list? Not much. I came into this job with a fast and loose mindset, and I walk out with a conservative and risk adverse bent on the world. Why? Because I have a person who dealt with nuclear reactors for a living, and he’s just a LITTLE risk adverse! :) They’ve taught me that if you can do it fast, great, but can you do it with minimal risk? Where speed was the buzzword of the dot com boom, risk (and the reduction thereof) is the buzzword of the post dot com implosion. THIS IS DIVERSITY MY FRIENDS! These people think in a different way and bring something new to the table. I also have a person on my team that has worked in our organization for 25+ years. They have a different viewpoint than the rest of us, especially when the next longest has spent a mere 6 years here (not to minimize that person’s contribution).

The bottom line for me is this: who cares about the racial, cultural, sexual, gender, etc. stuff?!?! I don’t! I think it makes for interesting hallway conversations; to peer into the world of someone unlike yourself. Beyond that, I just don’t really care.