Diversity and inclusion are arguably the most important issues in tech culture right now. Companies on and between the coasts, from startups to global corporations, recognize more and more the positive impacts of improving diversity and inclusion. In fact, our tech censuses in Indianapolis and Cincinnati this year revealed that it’s the top-ranked social issue by members of both communities. Entrepreneurs, investors, and industry leaders are making efforts to honestly assess the state of diversity and inclusion in tech and, more importantly, determine how to create a brighter and more inclusive future.
With this national trend in mind, we held a special pitch night in Indianapolis earlier this month called “Diversity, Inclusion, and the Future of Tech.” As part of our programming, we brought on a guest host and a panel of three champions for diversity in the local community. The conversation was so timely and full of wonderful insights that we decided it needed to be shared with the entire Powderkeg community.
In this episode of the Igniting Startups podcast, Kelli Jones of Givelify leads Danielle Vetter of Cummins, Kelly Schwedland of Elevate Ventures and Rochelle Olaleye of Salesforce in assessing the state of diversity and inclusion in tech today. Over the course of an inspirational and informative discussion, they ultimately explain what entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders can do to help make their companies and communities more diverse, more inclusive, and more welcoming of different perspectives. And it’s not about optics. It’s about building high-performing companies that attract the best talent and understand their customers’ needs.
In this episode with four champions for diversity and inclusion in tech, you’ll learn:
Key ways companies can empower team managers to drive diversity and inclusion.
How diverse founders can build “venture-backable” companies to help secure funding.
Strategies for weaving diversity and inclusion into your company’s day-to-day operations.
The best hiring practices for attracting and retaining diverse talent.
Why you should make time to listen to everyone on your team.
The crucial role training plays in promoting diversity and inclusion.
Please enjoy this conversation with Kelli Jones, Danielle Vetter, Kelly Schwedland, and Rochelle Olaleye!
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Kelli Jones, Danielle Vetter, Kelly Schwedland and Rochelle Olaleye quotes from this episode of Powderkeg:
“Diversity helps make companies better, it makes people better, and it helps make better business leaders.” — @KelliNikole on @PowderkegHQ
“The more employees can hear leaders talking about diversity and then taking action on diversity, the more it becomes not just a buzzword, but integrated into the company’s culture.” — @better_vetter on @PowderkegHQ
“The piece that was so pivotal for me was giving people space to talk. There were three male, Type A personalities in the room, and a lot of times it was just giving others the freedom and the space to actually open up.” — @KellySchwedland on @PowderkegHQ
“We had to make a cultural shift in order to understand that everyone brings something to the table, and everyone’s voice needs to be heard. A lot of that happened through training.” — @RochelleOla on @PowderkegHQ
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Companies and organizations:
Venture capital firms:
Powderkeg blog posts:
Kelli Jones (@KelliNikole)
Danielle Vetter (@better_vetter)
Kelly Schwedland (@KellySchwedland)
Rochelle Olaleye (@RochelleOla)
Tony Prophet (@tony_prophet)
Bob Stutz (@rlstutz)
What stood out most to you about what these entrepreneurs share in this podcast?
For me, it’s the crucial role training plays in promoting diversity and inclusion.
You? Leave a comment below.
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Losing a skilled member of your team plus up to one and a half or two times their salary.
What does it mean to be venture bankable? And then how do I portray that?
The idea was to grow in understanding so that we can begin to have those important conversations
Hey, Patrick egg fans, you’re listening to Episode 60 of powderkeg igniting startups, a show for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators who are building remarkable tech companies in areas decidedly outside of Silicon Valley. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And today, I’m excited to share a conversation that just went down at one of our live events, which was aptly named diversity, inclusion and the future of tech. Now, diversity inclusion have been the top ranked social issues in each of our national tech censuses. So far, it’s something that almost everyone in tech from the heartland to the coasts, recognizes as a critically important piece of the puzzle to building thriving tech companies and communities. Diverse teams are not just good for the company cultures and community. It’s good for business. According to research from McKinsey and Company, teams, where men and women are equal, earn 41% more revenue. And racially diverse teams outperform non diverse ones by 35%. I could go on and on. But I want to tell you a little bit about this conversation because we started the evening with this Convo. And we had incredible people who explored some interesting perspectives on diversity and inclusion in tech culture. We had so many great insights come out of it, and it felt like a conversation we really needed to share with the awesome audience here on the podcast. You’ll hear from three panelists looking at diversity and inclusion through different lenses. First off, you have Danielle fetter, diversity inclusion senior specialist at Fortune 500 company Cummins. Next up you have Kelly Swetland, entrepreneur in residence at Elevate ventures. And finally, Rochelle Alola, senior manager of a quality programs at Salesforce. You’ll hear more about all of them from the leader of our panel, Kelly Jones, Kelly is a community and relationship builder in an emerging tech hub. She’s the founder and CEO of be nimble, a social enterprise that advances diversity initiatives to create fully inclusive tech ecosystems. She’s also the founder of disrupt Indy, the first conference in Central Indiana dedicated to the exploration of diversity and inclusion and technology. It just made national news as one of the top black tech conferences in the United States. And if that weren’t ambitious enough, Kelly also hustles as the director of people, culture and brand at givelify, a mobile donation app transforming mobile giving and philanthropy. Let’s hear from her now. Here’s Kelly in Indianapolis, Indiana, to lead the discussion on diversity, inclusion, and the future of tech.
help me welcome your host very evening, Kelly Jones.
You made me sound so awesome. I don’t know if I’m quite as awesome as he’s explaining to you. But you know, you just made me feel that way. And I appreciate that.
I mean, your lavalier mic makes you look so damn. So. So official. Awesome. Before I hand the torch off to you. We’ve got to make sure we teach everyone. Oh gosh, how to stay engaged with pitches this evening.
I just learned this tonight. This is exciting. I’m very
excited. So for those of you who are veterans to powder keg, you know what to do. Put your glass down, get your need both hands for this. Take your hands spread them apart like this. Although not like you’re holding a microphone and bring them together. We’re gonna try to do that a little bit better. All together as a community now. All right, all right. I love it. powderkeg yours, Kelly. The stage is yours. This crowd is hot. Kick it off.
Are you guys are you sure you’re Hi, I need to hear something from you guys. Are you guys? Yes. I am so excited to be here tonight. This is such an important night. Thank you, Matt. She and the entire powderkeg family for inviting me to be here tonight. I don’t think I’d be anywhere else in the world. But I’m here with you guys. So thank you so much. Um, before I get started, I would like to go ahead and mention all of our great exhibitors tonight. We have a selflessly here we have pride in tech here so many great exhibitors that really display and show diversity and inclusion when it comes to technology. So please make sure that you stop by and say hi to them. I love And dearly. So glad to see you guys. So before we jump into the pitches for tonight, we are going to have a fireside chat and really excited to have this. Because tonight is about two things, right. It’s about the present state of diversity and inclusion in Indianapolis, and also what we want the future of diversity and inclusion in Minneapolis to look like. And that’s from a jobs perspective, a company perspective, but also entrepreneurship, innovators, VC, etc. Right. So we’re gonna have a really amazing conversation tonight about those things. So when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion, it can be very uncomfortable. I talk about it all the time. So I have no problem making people feel uncomfortable. But with you guys being such innovators, such entrepreneurs out here, we know that this is an innovative conversation that we want to make sure that we’re having and hopefully you guys feel confident and having those conversations today. The point of the matter is diversity really helps makes companies better, it makes people better, and it helps make better business leaders. The Indianapolis tech census has shown that this is a tough social issue here in our community. And I want to make sure that we continue to shed light on these issues. So please, please, please help me greet our three guests, with thunderous, thunderous applause for taking part in this very potentially uncomfortable situation. But absolutely necessary to talk about diversity and inclusion here in Indianapolis. So I’m going to start by introducing our first guests. Our first guest is strengthening the global workforce by helping leadership manage talent. She coordinates the implementation of diversity and inclusion strategy at a fortune 500 company headquartered right here in Indiana. Please help me welcome to the stage diversity and inclusion manager Danielle Vetter. Thank you, Danielle. Next, our second guest has worked on over 30 startups, including two Angel backed companies and three companies that reach exits. That’s impressive, right. He’s also invested in several startups grew one to over 200 million and was part of an inc 500 company. Some of his ventures have even failed. are we surprised who doesn’t fail right? And he now applies all of his success and failures to help b2b SaaS companies today, please help me to welcome to the stage entrepreneur in residence, Kelly swimlane. Hey. And last, but certainly not least, our final guests focuses on equality programs and thought leadership in Indianapolis, her journey has taken her through real estate financing nonprofit education. Using that experience, she helps people create spaces where they can be their best in and outside of work. Please help me, welcome to the stage Senior Manager of quality programs at Salesforce, Rochelle. I have to say, these are amazing people to have on the stage. And I’m really excited to chat with all of you guys. Excuse me, if I walk around a little bit, a little bit of a busy body. So I’m gonna do that. No chair. I like to stand. Um, so I’m just gonna, we only have a short amount of time. And so what I want to do is kind of asked us a couple of questions to everyone on our panel today. If we have some time, I’m more than happy to welcome one or two questions. But just understand that we are not going to be able to get to everything today. But we will have plenty of time after this to have opportunity to talk more and more intensely about some of these topics. Okay. So Danielle, I’m gonna start with you. With so much disruption happening through tech startups, corporate innovation, and only become more important, how do corporations innovate around diversity and inclusion when they’re building their products and services, especially working for a larger company like Cummins?
That’s a really great question. Thank you. Cummins has been around for 100 years, which means that our HR systems, our policies, or programs have been building careers and engines for 100 years. driving change over that is really difficult. So innovation is important, especially when you have such a rich atmosphere of startups with top talent like the organizations that you represent. When we think of innovating with Cummins, I spend a lot of time thinking about managers and equipping them with the tools to help drive change throughout their owner organizations. For example, by show of hands how many of you have been to El Dorado Illinois we got one Cummins has a distributor there which is where we sell and service our engines. I visited talked with the plant manager talked with the technicians dressed not unsimilar relate to how I was today. I’m very good at my job passionate about diversity and inclusion. But when I was talking with the technician fixing the bus fleet for the local school system, how much standing credibility Do you think I had on that employee’s day to day experience? Not very much when it comes to creating an inclusive work environment is that employees manager, it’s the people that he goes in and sees every day in the distributor that are really going to drive the difference. So when we think about driving innovation at Cummins, I think about equipping managers with tools that can come through education that can come through experiences, we think about our physical work environment, when you walk into the office, is it a place that says you’re welcome here, this could be things as silly as posters on the back of the bathroom stalls in a manufacturing plant, or as complex as modifying our learning systems to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Finally, we think about aligning diversity and inclusion with our company strategy, in order for Cummins to be around for the next 100 years to compete with companies like Tesla, like Siemens, like all of the other startups that are in the room here. We need to adjust and modify the trainings that we give to all of our employees, whether you’re an hourly employee working on a shop floor line, all the way up to a vice president, thinking about how you’re going to change the way that you interact with your co workers as an organization. So if you think
those are great things, those are all things that I think people can take and think about, you know, when they go back to their jobs every day, right? Kelly, I’m gonna go to the next. When it comes to Vc, it seems like the industry is taking heat from both sides, right? There was a recent number that came out where it shows that 80% of the VC industry is male, 60% is white male, and less than 3% are black and Latino. On the other side, diverse founders are also seemingly getting ignored, right? There’s less than 1% that are people of color and a little over 2% that are women. It seems like we have an opportunity here in Indy, to shake that up, right? Because those numbers are based on what’s happening in Silicon Valley. So in your opinion, what is it that we can do locally, to help make sure that we are not becoming kind of what we’ve seen happen in other spaces in DC? And what is it that you are doing personally, because I know you’re a big advocate to help make sure that you know, we’re seeing more diverse founders get funded?
Well, so it’s a tackle two parts of that question. So the first part of that question is, probably the rationale on that is that VC funds are typically started by people who have already made their money. And so it’s sort of the bad habit of white males have been the ones who made the money in the past. So they’re the ones who have the money that raise the funds, etc. And I think the only way we solve that is to have more, a diverse set of founders that grow up and are successful and have, you know, super exits and ultimately get to a point where they are in a position to do that. I mean, we’re unique fund anyway. So we have a pretty diverse staff and our fund as well. Our chief investment officer is Asian female. So it’s kind of a as an example, but I think that’s part of it, I obviously, we’re not in a position to fix, you know, all the ills of the VC side of it. But from the founder side of it, I think the key piece in some ways, which I spend a lot of time talking to, with all founders is building a company that is venture bankable. And I think that’s really the key, the key critical piece of it is understanding what it means to be a venture backed company, and then being putting yourself in position to build a company like that. And it’s, it’s really tough, because to be quite honest, there’s no there’s very little early stage money to build some of the things that need to be built. Right. And that’s kind of the challenge. And we’re a venture capital fund, and especially an institutional capital fund, because as we’ve talked about the other day, institutional capital means that we’ve taken money down from somebody else. And we’ve told them that we’re going to deploy the money into fund into companies that we think are going to give you outsized returns. And so they have to fit in this little box like this. That’s a fast growth company. And so there’s a lot of baggage with what that term means. And so understanding what that means, and most of my day, in fact, this morning, in fact, was spent having conversations with founders around what does it mean to be venture bankable? And then how do I portray that in my pitch deck in such a way that I can attract capital?
I’m just have a follow up on that real quick. I have a question. So in your opinion, what does it take for a person to be venture bankable? Like what are some key things that you would point out for any founders out here that are looking to get VC funding that they could do today, or implement tomorrow or next week or next month that they could do to be able to be ready? Yeah,
so So I probably spend a little bit more of my time focused on b2b Software as a Service kind of space. And so I spent a little bit more time on that. I think the actually, there’s a great article that I wrote on powderkeg, that really addresses this, which is sales velocity is the key metric that everybody’s looking for. I spent the summer to went to Sastre in Paris this last summer, and sat there. And it’s funny listening to the Europeans talk like, and Silicon Valley VCs talk to the Europeans the same way they talk to us. It’s like the same as like, like they were not in Silicon Valley. Right? And but the one thing that just kept coming out was is it how fast you grow, attracts interest. And if you think about it, you know, they make money on how fast they return funds to its its ROI return on investment, right? So if I put a million dollars in, am I gonna get 3 million back in three years? Am I going to get 3 million back in 10 years. And so if it’s 3 million in 10 years, like I might as well just put my money in the stock market. And so that really drives the decision. So if you’re growing at 300%, a year, three to 500% a year, then it’s really interesting to VCs. And I think, I think what we need to understand across the board in the Midwest is that we can attract capital. But we have to be above average on the growth metric in order to attract that that piece, because we don’t the other metrics, the other heuristics, which are oh, you worked at Google, or you worked at Facebook, or some of the other things that people make decisions about why they invest in companies, you know, we don’t have that same set of metrics in Indianapolis, for example.
Those are great points. Thank you, Kelly. I like that the sales have sales velocity. Hey, you’re up next? I have an easy question for you. It’s a softball. So we all know like Salesforce is like really kind of this blueprint for diversity and inclusion, right? Like they have the amazing kind of PR, and they’re doing these great things. And they have these ERG groups that are doing amazing things. And they’re closing the wage gap for women, right? What in your opinion, are some of the things that are really differentiating you from others? And then, as smaller companies or startup companies or entrepreneurs are thinking about how they can make diversity and inclusion are paramount to their companies? What are some things that like you can kind of, or submit advice that you can give that they can replicate from what you guys have done?
Okay, so easy question. Thank you, Kelly. And actually, I do, I want to thank you for moderating this discussion. And also, I want to say thank you to Matt, for providing time and a pitch tonight for this discussion, because diversity and inclusion is so important is, you know, one of those things that I think is near and dear to a lot of our hearts here in this room. And it’s one of those problems that are one of those challenges that we have that we know that we’re in a pivotal point, when we think about who we want to be and where we’re headed. How do we bring everyone along? Right? So with Salesforce, it started with us with our core values. Equality is actually one of our core values, our core values, I trust, customer success and innovation, and equality. And at some point in the not too far. Past just two years ago, our CEO decided that not only because the quality is one of our core values, but we need to be even more intentional about how we’re approaching equality. So he hired a Chief equality officer Tony profit, and launched our Office of equality. Right around that same time, I was talking with RT RT chief analytics officer here in Indianapolis, Bob Stutz about what we can do in Indiana for equality. So we have these 10, amazing Ohana groups. That was our employee resource groups, similar to what a lot of companies have. And we knew a couple key things that were important about having employee resource groups. One we need to listen, right? Because usually employee resource groups are representative of usually an underserved population or a smaller group, right. And it wasn’t just the place the idea wasn’t just to have a place for people to get together and have some snacks, you know, and talk about how hard it is to be an part of an underserved group and a big company. The idea was to grow in understanding so that we can begin to have those important conversations, right. So when you think about what can companies do, what can we all do? Think about what your values are, what are your values, and if valuing each and every Human being is important to you. How do you weave that into your day to day operations? You know, are you having those brave conversations? Are you listening to all the voices in the room? It’s one thing to say that you’re welcome and bring people in. But how are you growing and retaining that talent? You know, what, what are the things that you have in place? And also things that they’re kind of hard questions, you know, what are we going to do different than what we’ve done in the past? Because we’re not going to get a different result if we keep doing it the same way?
That’s a good points. Thank you so much for shadow. We have a few minutes left. I actually have another question for Danielle, I’d like to throw out if that’s okay. I think with with Cummins, you know, being a huge manufacturing company, huge company here in Sydney, but also being a tech enabled company, right? I imagine that, you know, with the uprising of all of these startup companies and big tech companies, that there probably is some issues that you face when it comes to recruiting talent, especially diverse in depth or diverse talent, I should say, you know, everyone’s attracted to cool, and everyone’s attracted to like, oh, we have bagels in the morning. You know, like, what are some things that, you know, differentiates Cummins from, you know, other kind of startup, you know, cultures, I guess, that kind of stands out to help you continue to bring in diverse talent?
That’s a really great question. We unfortunately don’t have bagels. So you have to rely on other ways to bring top talent in. I was struck by one of the sentences that I read in the powderkeg tech census that talked about the most important things for our company. And that was the intersection between the ideas, the technology, and the people, just like the startup organizations that you’re a part of people are absolutely essential to what Commons does. I work with an amazing network of people that are from over 100 countries of origin. 40% of my colleagues speak two languages, 22% of them speak three. So when it comes to building a community, both in the Indianapolis tech community, but also within Cummins corporation with 60,000 employees around the world, we have to think a lot about the ways to bring in the best people. Because when you lose talent, particularly diverse talent, that’s not only a detriment to employee engagement, it costs your company’s losing a skilled member of your team costs up to one and a half or two times their salary. So everything that we can do as a corporation, to not only attract people to your point, but keep them in is important. And we spend a lot of time thinking about again, as I mentioned before, the ways that we’ve brought talent in in the past might not be the best ways to bring talent in in the future, especially because the ways that we brought people in the past, rely on networks rely on the merit of what has worked in the past, we’ll keep doing it. So in order to open doors for new talent to come into your company, you need to be innovative, and you need to proactively build relationships with organizations outside the four walls. So it’s not just opening a door, it’s maybe opening a window, providing a trampoline to jump in anything you can do that’s creative, to build relationships and equity with diverse communities outside of your corporation. That’s really the key differentiator between bringing people in. One other thing that I’ll say that Cummins does really well is empowering leaders to take on diversity and inclusion as their own and then talking about it, broadcasting to potential talent that diversity matters. And it’s not just a PR initiative, we have full time staff and headcount working on making this potential. Each of my officers at the companies have a five year diversity and inclusion plan. So thinking about attracting, they’re thinking about education, they’re thinking about retaining, and they’re thinking about what are the best ways to engage it make a two line way to feedback between the regular employee experience and where the leadership thinks that they’re going? The more employees can hear leaders talking about diversity, and then taking action on diversity, the more becomes not just a buzzword, but integrated into the company’s culture, not just while it’s a, I guess, movement that’s bubbled up to everything that we talked about in pop culture, but really sustaining and driving the strategy of the organization moving forward.
That’s perfect. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So,
you know, there’s having going back prior to being in venture capital role and building companies, which is most of my life, one of the things that I found was that two things, one being white, male, whatever. I have a lot of preconceived biases that I don’t really think about. And I think one of the things that really struck me, you know, building a couple of companies, the last one we did FinTech company, was actually having being intentional about building diverse teams. I think we ended up with just shy of 100 employees. And one of the things that I found and it’s funny, it was both ways, like we had certain teams that were all female, and it was like the That actually was problematic. And for teams that were all male, and it’s like that was problematic, and really beginning to bring more diversity into that in order to have more voices in the conversation. And, you know, I was very fortunate, you know, I look back at us like, our car, our C suite was pretty flat, because it was three white guys started founded the company, right? And then, but our CFO was I brought a female in to be the chief operating officer. And it was super valuable, because it gave us the opportunity to have a different set of opinions around who we hired, how we hired, you know, and listening. And I think the piece and again, this is very anecdotal, but you know, looking back at it was so pivotal for me, was giving people space to talk. Because there was three male, you know, a personalities in the room. And a lot of times, it was just saying, okay, stop, let’s listen to this person talk, let’s listen to this person talk. This is that person talk and giving them the freedom and the space where there’s a lot of dead space to actually open up. And I think it’s hard. It’s hard for me now, because I think there’s so many people that I interact with on a daily basis, building companies in your heart, charging and whatever, and you’re building from your network. And you’re pulling people in that you’ve known from other companies, and, you know, whatever that looks like. And I think you have to be intentional. And I think there’s a lot of biases built into the way that we hire. One of the companies I’m working with right now woven, which is building a process for hiring people for tech talent. And one of the things that is the most fascinating about that is, is that we give the tech, they give you the coding test up front, so you don’t actually know who you’re engaged with, until after you see the results of what they can do. And I think that changes the dynamic really quickly of hiring people based on their skills, as opposed to your pre biasing how well they do it putting a resume together, or whatever it may be.
Absolutely. I think that’s a great point. Absolutely.
So I love, I hate that we’re running out of time, but I love where all of the opportunities, this conversation opens up. When I think about what else we can do. In what else we can do here, right, you know, right here in our own backyard, the way that we look for talent, right? That even can there’s some opportunities there kind of needs to change. I don’t know if you guys remember some of those early, earlier job descriptions that you looked at maybe sometimes there’s four different jobs listed in one description, you know, you’re asking for the ability to do everything, like run the entire system by yourself, build it and run it by yourself. So even looking at what the job descriptions are, you know, and taken out language that may really be bias language, that’s something that we all can do. A lot of companies are looking at that. It’s it’s also a way that you can attract, so you’re attracting more diverse talent. But also women, women have a different way that we look at applications and job descriptions than men. And a different way that we will apply for jobs, usually we’re looking to make sure we can do everything it says on the list. And really, that’s not necessarily the case. So that’s one thing. And then other things before we run out of time, I want to give a gift. Salesforce Trailhead is a gift, it’s retraining, it’s something that’s available open to the public, we’ve tried in on equality. Back in in the back, Kelly was asking, you know, what’s that thing that you guys do? And I’m thinking we just do it, we do this thing. But a lot of that is training, we had to make a cultural shift in order to understand that everyone brings something to the table, right? And everybody, everyone’s voice needs to be heard. A lot of that happened through training. So there’s free training, both on our application on our platform, and also on equality, something that we can all look at to see, you know, are we approaching? are we approaching this new future that we want in the best possible way?
Thanks. That’s fantastic. Thank you. That’s a great way to come everything’s free training right there Salesforce data. Thank you guys so much for joining us today. We just hit time on the head. Thank you again for joining us, and we look forward to connecting with you after. Give them a round of applause.
That’s it for our show today. I hope you enjoyed this candid conversation on diversity and inclusion in tech and came away with a few new perspectives. I know I did and I’m really thankful that you tuned into Special Episode Episode 60 of powderkeg igniting startups, you can head on over to powderkeg.com to get all the links and all the people and all the resources mentioned in this very special episode, and to be among the first to hear the stories about entrepreneurs, investors and other tech leaders building great businesses outside of Silicon Valley. Subscribe to us on firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash iTunes. See you next time on powderkeg igniting startups