Diversity - Weaving a Stronger Mosaic

An image of a galaxy, with the Digital Echidna logo written in the stars.

What's the value of diversity? For us, it's been a natural part of our ultimate goal to build the best solutions for our clients. And how do you get to those solutions? It's not by having a bunch of people who think the same, sitting around the table rehashing the same ideas, that's for sure.

We had a heck of a week a couple of weeks ago. First, Hala Ghonaim came by to chat about our company's diverse employee base. Then our Fatima Khalid was on the CBC Afternoon Drive sharing her experiences as a woman in the tech industry. This was followed with a longer segment on CBC French, where I tried my best to represent our thoughts (and not butcher the French language).

And while we truly appreciated the media reaching out to us to discuss this very important topic, we were somewhat amused because we really don't think we're doing anything special. We're not focusing on a quota or checking off a box. All we're doing is building the strongest team possible -- and diversity has to be a core component of that.

So why do we value diversity? Because it makes sense.

The way we look at it, you're only going to get better if your assumptions are challenged. If those ideas and thoughts that you hold aren't questioned, tested, and verified, they're not going to stand the test of time. And how do you get that diversity of opinion? It's not by having a bunch of people who look like me, think like me, and have the same socio-cultural and educational background like me discussing ideas.

Diversity of thought comes from diversity of experience. And, often, that diversity of experience is best found in people who have different socio-cultural backgrounds. So when you're building a team, you look for people who bring the best ideas, who bring variety and ingenuity to the team. It’s a combination of curiosity, experience, talent, and relevant knowledge. You're not looking at a specific sex or colour, but you're looking at what the person brings to the team -- and diversity becomes a welcomed benefit of that process.

It can be tough, though. It takes vision and leadership. After all, it's easy to surround yourself with people who agree with you 100 per cent. It's harder to understand and appreciate the value of having people with whom you may clash ideologically, but it's far more valuable to the end result.

It's simple science. If your hypothesis doesn't stand up to the test, then it's invalid. And if you never allow your thoughts, ideas, and solutions to be scrutinized, then they're really not worth having.

One of the things that I remember most from my high school Canadian Literature class was a discussion of what it means to be Canadian. Because of our geography, you can't really pinpoint a true touchstone piece of Canadiana. People on the east coast are vastly different from those on the west; the experiences of those in the far north don't match at all with what you'll see in Southwestern Ontario. So the joke became that the defining characteristic of what it means to be Canadian is, "Not American."

And that's more true than the joke intended. While the U.S. has been built on a melting pot ideology, Canada is far more of a cultural mosaic. We are a nation of immigrants who are encouraged to retain our traditions, our cultures, and our societies, all the while contributing to this country we call Canada.

It's not perfect, of course. We have actions in our past for which we should feel shame. We also don't live in a Utopia of racial, social, cultural, or religious harmony. There are still conflicts, there are still challenges.

But there's a lot of which we should be proud.

I've always been one that embraces new experiences and information. I'm genuinely intrigued to learn about other people, their cultures, and their experiences (and, let's be honest, eat their food.) I have friends across all political stripes because I believe in the power of discussion, criticism, and compromise to design a solution that affects positive change.

So while I know I personally don't exactly represent the ideal of diversity, I'm proud to be surround by a team that does. I'm just one thread and I'm proud to be part of a team that's strengthened by a tapestry of ages, sexes, races, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, and political affiliations, which has made this Echidna mosaic a stronger whole.

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