Inflection recently had the honor of hosting the 92nd Bay Area Girl Geek dinner. More than 150 Girl Geeks attended the event, held at Devil’s Canyon Brewery in San Carlos, to network and share ideas and expertise. It was a great night full of food, drinks, networking, and an amazing discussion with an accomplished Inflection panel:
- Tiffany Fereydouni, Director of Product Management (panel moderator)
- Hamida Hamza, Senior Director of People
- Avanti Ketkar, Lead Platform Engineer
- Stephanie Leong, Director of Partnerships
- Julie Price, Director of Product Management
- Marielle Smith, Director of Recruiting
Cultivating a Company Culture Where Everyone Thrives
Tiffany framed the evening’s discussion by asking the panel and the audience to explore ways that a company can cultivate conditions in which women and, by extension, the entire team can thrive.
Marielle and Hamida explained how we do it at Inflection. Inflection’s college recruiting program means it has the opportunity to hire women and a diverse range of people straight out of engineering programs.
Another aspect of recruiting that makes a difference, Marielle told the crowd, is that we screen carefully for culture fit in addition to hiring for skills. “Culture fit doesn’t just mean that everyone thinks or does things the same way,” she said. “It’s about hiring people who are good at trusting each other and who prioritize relationships. We believe this helps create an environment that makes it a lot easier for all sorts of people, and especially women, to feel comfortable.”
The success of the approach is reflected in the numbers Hamida shared: Women make up 28% of Inflection’s executive team, 50% of our leadership team, and 60% of the hires through our college recruiting program.
Targeting Cultural Diversity
One Girl Geek in the audience pointed out that talking about the broad category of “women” misses the fact that many racial, ethnic, and other minorities are underrepresented within that category and in tech as a whole. She asked the panel to discuss what’s being done to address those challenges.
One thing Inflection has done, Hamida pointed out, is to look into alternative ways of recruiting beyond directly out of college programs or concentrating only on people with a lot of experience.
Inflection partnered with an organization called CodeCamp earlier this year, which teaches students how to code for free. By forming partnerships with organizations like this, we’re able to connect with and potentially recruit individuals who have followed different paths than the ones companies traditionally look to for recruiting.
“Beyond Inflection, one of the biggest challenges is making sure that women of color and other diversity categories are pursuing careers in the technology field and are welcomed and made to feel comfortable in those roles,” Hamida said. “That’s something everybody can help with.”
Creating the Conditions For a Balanced Workplace
Work-life balance is not a women’s issue, it’s an everyone issue. The panel agreed that cultivating that balance, for both men and women is important.
“At Inflection, we have people who are out of the office every night to have dinner with their kids, and we have people who train during their lunch to compete in an Ironman Triathlon. Some people do both!” Stephanie Leong said, “No matter what hobby or personal responsibility is important to our employees, we make sure they have the flexibility to make time for that.”
Audience members added to this thought. One great piece of advice: You can take control of your schedule without feeling the need to explain. If you’re in a culture where people are working from 8 AM to 8 PM and you won’t be, set the expectation that you’re not going to be there all those hours because you have other commitments. Learn to create boundaries for yourself and set expectations with your team.
And another suggestion: You can decide when you work and what you do. If you need to be home at 5:30, you have to be efficient and help the people your team to be efficient. If you’re efficient and able to create your work-life balance, you’re helping make that a possibility for your whole team.
The Girl Geeks at the event looked to the panel for tips women can use in job negotiations. Avanti strongly encouraged women to negotiate, pointing out that the most likely outcomes are that you’ll get more money or you won’t. “The possibility that they will retract the offer is very small. The worst case scenario is, you have the same offer.”
Marielle pointed out that Inflection has an organizational development specialist who coaches employees on skills like negotiation. She encouraged everybody who is in the process of considering a new opportunity to negotiate the package that they feel comfortable with. “Know your price. Know what you’re willing to accept. Do your research and have these discussions with the people that matter to you in your life before you go in and start the negotiation.”
When it comes to asking for raises, an audience member shared some great advice: It’s really important is to document what you’ve done. Then you can take it with you when you go ask for a promotion or a raise. People around you are also busy that they may not notice exactly how hard you’ve been working so having that documentation to advocate for yourself is hugely important.
Establishing Traditions to Sustain Company Culture
Creating settings where people can come together as their full selves is the glue of Inflection’s culture. Families are invited on our annual trip, and everyone has the opportunity to connect with each other. The catered lunch and an open café area in Inflection’s Redwood Shores office encourage people to sit with coworkers they might not work work closely with. Frequent happy hours bring Inflectionites together away from work.
As Hamida told the Girl Geeks, “We’re not just hosting events, we’re creating memories, and memories are what bring people together.”
A Call to Action
Our panel finished up the discussion by sharing one piece of advice for everyone to take home. This is what they had to say:
- If your company doesn’t have a women’s initiative or group, go back and start it.
- Support your female colleagues even if you don’t work on the same team. Talk about what you find challenging and what you’re struggling with, and learn from each other.