Building a Better Industry: The Business Case for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Tech

Dominique Bastos
Senior Vice President, Cloud
Drew Catherine
Moderator | Freelance Web Developer
Automatic Summary

Diversity in Tech: An In-Depth Conversation with Dominique Bastos

Welcome to our latest discussion on 'Diversity in Tech' with Dominique Bastos, who shines as the Senior Vice President of Sales and Head of AWS Business Unit at Persist Systems. Boasting a 25-year career in tech, Dominique takes a long-term view on client outcomes and values will be sharing her experiences and insights on diversity in tech today.

How Dominique Defines Diversity

For Dominique, diversity is an evolutionary concept that now stands synonymous with absolute global inclusion. To her, it promotes an environment where anyone can bring their best authentic self to work, free from obstacles and the feeling of constantly having to defend their identities. Dominique believes diversity offers a platform where opportunities are equally available to everyone, regardless of their gender, race, or however they sincerely identify themselves.

Ensuring Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Beyond Hiring

Offering advice on how companies can foster a diverse, inclusive environment, Dominique emphasizes on:

  • Fostering a culture of learning in leadership for overcoming subconscious bias and tackling microaggressions.
  • Ensuring an inclusive meeting environment where everyone feels encouraged to contribute.
  • Investing in employee growth to deliver better results and drive up company performance.

Becoming Proactive in Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

When addressing the question of how traditional leaders can promote diversity, Dominique suggests tying diversity metrics to incentives. She also believes education and periodic diversity assessments are effective tools to break old habits and foster a more inclusive environment.

Remote Work and Inclusion

With the global shift towards remote working, Dominique sees a golden opportunity for increased inclusiveness. Remote working eliminates many conventional obstacles - from commuting issues to physical constraints - and invites a wider audience into the work environment. According to her, the global reach of remote work can accommodate diverse individuals and their unique ideas more effectively, driving meaningful advancements.

Dominique’s Experience with Diversity

When asked about her experience with diversity over her lengthy career, Dominique describes it as "intense". As a female in a predominantly male sector, she found herself frequently underestimated based on her gender and appearance. However, she found strength in these challenges and used them as fuel to excel in her career further – proving her critics wrong every time.

Creating Safe Spaces for Discussing Sensitive Topics in Organizations

A firm advocate of open dialogue, Dominique believes that creating safe spaces for sensitive discussions on topics such as diversity, equity, and inclusion is crucial. According to her, effective leadership, self-awareness, feedback loops and a judgment-free listening culture can contribute significantly to instigating such discussions.

If you enjoyed this engaging discussion on diversity in tech with Dominique Bastos, feel free to explore other notable chats in our series. Your commitment to a more inclusive, diverse tech industry is a step towards a better future for all.

Video Transcription

Um So uh welcome to the um diversity in tech uh chat with uh Dominique Bastos. Um She is a uh senior Vice President of Sales and Head of the Aws Business Unit at Persist Systems.Um And she positively impacts outcomes for clients by taking long term view across 35 and 10 year spans. So, focusing on long term and to uh deepen the bonds of partnership. Um She's had a 25 year career in tech and she is excited to talk about diversity with you all today.

Thank you for having me. Can you hear me? OK. Yeah, you're good. Perfect, nice to be here.

Um So, first of all, I think like, what uh we should definitely nail down is sort of um what does diversity mean to you unique?

Well, I think um it's evolved throughout at least my career. Um Diversity to me now means just absolute inclusion of any human in any capacity uh and give them the ability to bring their best um authentic self to work um without any obstacles or, you know, having to like defend who you are. So I think diversity is kind of all encompassing across not just, you know, what I growing up in engineering thought was, you know, women needing more, uh, room in a world where it was male dominated. But also, you know, as, as you go through life you see it just, it affects races, colors, uh, however somebody identifies so it's all encompassing. Um, I think diversity is just the ability for people to give everybody a chance.

Well, um, yeah, I agree. I think there should be, you know, kind of this ability to be comfortable in your workplace and participate whenever you feel like your opinion is needed or valued. Um So what do you think like beyond hiring? Because I think a lot of times um by the way, attendees feel free to put in questions in the Q and A or in the chat, um we'll be happy to uh this is meant to be sort of a chat, so feel free to participate. Um So beyond hiring, what do you think companies can do to create a diverse inclusive environment?

Well, I think there's uh an opportunity to provide um whether it's mentoring or just knowledge around things like subconscious bias that people bring to work with them. And um maybe a framework around uh you know, you hear things like microaggressions and things that people maybe culturally are brought up with, that they don't even realize they're being exclusionary. So I think other than just hiring practices uh learning uh opportunities for leadership and for managers to understand things like um subconscious uh bias, uh you know, behaviors that might constitute microaggressions. Um how to allow people to participate, how to make a meeting flow in a way that everybody feels included. Um You know, obviously there, there are challenges with the day to day struggles that a company has with, you know, just existing and uh whatever their priorities might be.

But this is really important because you never know, you know, how much better you could be doing if you incorporate all the ideas and have everybody feel like they're invested in the company. Um You know, there are studies that have been done about just people taking ownership in something and the end results being much better. So I think, yeah, maybe not just focus on hiring but also focus on within the current uh employee base that you have and the leadership that's in place. What can you do to teach them about these things that actually exist and how to overcome, to make people feel more included? Uh Yeah,

I, I agree. I think we should make sure that, you know, people do feel valued in terms of uh you know, expressing themselves and being able to uh encourage that environment where they feel free to speak up. Um So we have a question from the, from the Q and A. Um how can we encourage leaders entrenched in traditional practices to become more proactive in promoting diversity, equity? And inclusion.

Well, I think that goes, that goes back to, you know, what I said and, and, and maybe taking it a step further, um tie incentives around having to participate in these things. So, you know, when you're at a company, you see these constant um reminders that you have to take some security assessment or, you know, assessments for an emergency situation. Well, I, I think not just an assessment but really have, you know, maybe quarterly, maybe I, I don't know what the cadence would be but actually require it and kind of gauge how it's going for each, uh for each area, for each leader. I think there's metrics you could put in place when it comes to hiring, there is actual, you know, you can see if the team is diverse. Um, those things should be tied to, to incentives for the individuals. If not, it's really hard to break somebody out of tradition and very hard to, you know, unless there's like a consequence, people typically don't change their behavior, you know, once you're an adult. So I, I'm gonna just venture out there and say that that's probably the case.

Um, I don't think it's bad intentions. I just think it's very hard to break habits unless there's very clear ways to do that and it's intentional and over a period of time.

Yeah, I think it definitely should be intentional for sure. Um Yeah, thank you. Um, ok. Uh So I think uh tied on with that question would be, how do you extend that to remote work? Right. So we've had an increasing amount of people working from home or working remotely on the road. How would you encourage uh an environment of inclusion even remotely?

Well, I think one of the benefits of remote work has been that it provides a more inclusive environment if that even makes sense because there are people who may be challenged in getting to work for whatever, you know, maybe it's a mobility reason, maybe it's a health reason.

And you know, they, you know, sadly a lot of people suffer from autoimmune disorders that just cause them to be tired all the time and it's, you know, not talked about. Um maybe it's a family situation where it's just easier to get the kids sorted out and then get right on a video call versus getting in a car or mass transit to commute. So I think um from a remote perspective, it's actually provided maybe more flexibility um to have people's voices heard because you're really, I mean, this venue is kind of like everybody is on the screen and you may have if you're an introvert, less intimidation. Um you, you know, you have the comfort of, of your surroundings and it may be kind of decreases some of the inhibitions for people who typically would get more nervous in an in person meeting. Um I think with remote work also, you know, like, like I mentioned earlier, just taking away some of the obstacles that might make it difficult for people, whether it's their personality or a commuting situation or um some type of physical uh constraints that they have. Um there's more opportunity to show up basically. And also just, you know, doing a zoom call, you can include a world of people. Whereas if people were scheduling meetings at work, they might have to be more selective as to which I kind of like like organization around meetings.

So I don't know where I'm going with this. But if you're going into a meeting at work, you know, you're typically not gonna have 20 bodies in a room, right? So they might be a little bit smaller and focused and that could be a good thing, but also it might just be a function of not having gotten a big enough conference room to accommodate everybody. So let's just have it with these people versus remotely. You can really accommodate more people in many different ways.

Yeah. Um I, I think that it has been one great aspect of remote work is I think about the people who weren't able to go into offices before and like this is a whole new world of opportunities. I think that's really wonderful. Um So you've had a 25 year span in technology with major corporations. Um What has been your experience with diversity? How has it changed since when you first came into the field.

Well, I think I've had, I, I think for me it's been early on in my career. It was intense in many ways in that. Um, you know, I was probably one of five in my engineering school and it was typically, uh, it was mostly males. Um, but also it was, you know, I come from uh a Cuban and Lebanese background. So I, you know, it, I guess, you know, I never saw myself as one short or two, a minority that apparently I am short because I'm 53 and apparently I'm a minority because, but I was born in Washington DC. So who knows? Um But I, I feel like early on in my career, the challenge was mostly around men, like a male presence and underestimating the capabilities of somebody that looks like me to be able to show up to a very difficult math class and actually get the highest grade. So there was always like this doubt of, you know, should you be in cheerleading instead? I've actually, I was told that by a professor. Um So yeah, just horrible things. So that type of very direct personal attack was something that happened a lot being a female in a male dominated at the time career.

Um I think another thing challenge that I faced when I first um started traveling for work internationally was the cultural aspect of how females are received. Um Never mind, you know, whether, what, depending on the country that you're in, what your background is just the fact that you're a woman in tech in a leadership position. You know, I've been asked in a country in South America to serve coffee um for a meeting that I was kicking off from my company in front of a lot of directors for a major banking institution. And the assumption there was obviously, you know, I'm the person there to serve the coffee because in this particular country, there were coffee girls that kind of came around and during the meetings and serve coffee. So it was very interesting. Um I, I've traveled abroad to, you know, to Latin America Europe, to Asia and it's, it's really dependent on the level that you've reached in your career and the expectation of the audience as to who should be leading that conversation or that meeting that is going to kick off, right?

Um So I personally, you know, have taken that as a challenge to just show them. So it's never, and, and this is very individual, right? I'm not saying that it should be the answer for everybody, but I never got my feelings hurt over it. I would just get angry and double down. So if somebody, you know, doubted whether or not I could be in thermodynamics, I ruined the curve for everybody and got 100 and 10 with all the extra credit because I basically ate the book and made sure I didn't miss a question. Um Same thing for the projects that I've done abroad. Um I was in Hong Kong for over a year delivering um a massive uh project for uh pharmaceutical distributor that was around the Pan Asian region and we went in for one project and ended up doing five. And yeah, I still talk to the executive team now. I think, you know, it was in, in a way, being underestimated expectations are set kind of low. And then when you over deliver, it's like this newfound respect and it's, it's annoying obviously to have to, you know, just go prove yourself because you're a woman versus given the same benefit of the doubt coming into an opportunity.

So for me, I've had a lot of challenges, a lot, like I could write a book about it, but it's, it's kind of, it's helped me understand the challenges that women face in general. It's motivated me to be a mentor um at my daughter's school, I, you know, went in and taught a physics class once because, and I purposely wore, you know, Bangles and all black and did my hair and everything and showed up and they were like, oh where's the teacher? I'm the teacher. And it was a pre engineering physics class for I think it was 10th graders. So they really did not expect somebody who looked like me to come in and be the preg engineering physics teacher. Um No knock. I consider myself a nerd. So I kind of was offended that they didn't think I was a nerd. Um But, but even from childhood, you know, the upbringing that they have and their expectations of what it means to go into an engineering career or a science career, depending on the family that they're in or what they've seen role modeled by their parents. Really happy to say that nowadays, it, at least to me it feels like night and day from when I was um dealing with it.

Um So we have one question from uh the Q and A. Um So what are your ideas? How can organizations encourage open dialogue and create safe spaces for discussing sensitive diversity, equity and inclusion topics?

II, I think it, you know, I will say it comes from leadership. I make it a point to have when I have a one on one with somebody. It's not me telling them this is what the one on one is about. Here's what I need you to do, it's more listening, you know, how are you, what are some of the things that you're, you know, uh challenged with? And how can I help? And I think just across the board because you don't know who's feeling what um being in a leadership position and being a good listener and really understanding without judgment where someone might be coming from. So I think that's kind of married with the idea of education because if I'm a biased individual who came from this type of traditional work background where it's, you know, very much like you, however, things were done back then in the assembly line days or whatever, you know, has carried over in people's minds.

Um, I may not know that yelling at somebody to get results doesn't work. Which hopefully again, nowadays and the types of companies that we have, it's common knowledge, but I think just baseline familiarity with yourself, like, you know, having some sense of uh self-awareness of how you come to the table. Um I was told very early on in my career by my AAA lovely executive assistant. I had, she was, this is sharing way too much. She was shocked that I was gonna have a child because apparently I was a workaholic and very intense and very no nonsense. Come on, let's get this not in a mean way, but just driven to the point of how are you even gonna make room for this, right? I I was not self aware when it came to that. I did not realize I was seen like that. So I think feedback loops also for leadership and, and companies that do these 360 type assessments that's really important for leaders to become self aware and education around the topic of diversity and also creating a safe space by being a good listener and not bringing judgments um and figuring out, you know, how do you help that person grow in their career?

All right. Thank you so much, Dominique. Uh That was really great. There's actually uh a couple more questions and chat in the Q and A. So feel free to pop over there and see what you can do, but we are currently out of time. Thank you so much for your time. My name is Drew. I'm a full stack developer. Feel free to reach out to me in the chat and uh reach out to Dominique you. Uh

Thank you so much. Take care. Bye bye.