The N word

Despite being an industry at the forefront of new and innovative product, traditional tech teams in most areas of the tech landscape are (and I know I am generalising but stick with me) still dangerously antiquated in two ways:

1 – women are massively under represented

2 – scarily focussed on product rather than people

I am of course excluding the googles and hipster Californian starts ups of this world because what these businesses have done is realise how dangerous this is and have invested heavily in changing the way they work.  An apple-esque approach though has not yet translated in to everyday internal tech teams or traditional engineering businesses, despite the countless studies in to how much more innovation and productivity can be enjoyed through adopting one.

I am not going to cover the well-trodden ground of why women have traditionally not sought engineering roles in the main, or indeed how putting a slide and a napping booth in your reception area makes for increased staff satisfaction.

What I do put to you though is that the two issues are linked.  Not a word I would usually put out there in a corporate context, but the word that connects these two issues for me is ‘Nurturing’.  In all the IT business and tech teams I have worked in or with, the N word doesn’t exist.  We invest in hardware, software, tools, training, certifications, licenses and branded polo shirts, but the work force is seen as just that.  Not a collective of individuals with their own needs and wants (no matter how unfamiliar to the non-techy), not as people bringing their own history, experiences, hopes and dreams to the party and not as valuable contributors that should be nurtured and cherished as much as the very expensive boxes of tin they maintain.

As a senior woman in IT for many years I experienced the best and the worst examples of this in many ways.  From being instructed to “treat them like work horses” to being constantly mistaken for the tea girl in meetings where I was the decision maker, and have witnessed first-hand how a lack of nurturing directly effects the quality of the product.

Adoption of a ‘people not product’ approach is essential for the success of any team, but is particularly necessary in the tech space where your techies are the product and the power they command over the business through their ‘expert power’ is high risk if not managed mindfully.

This month I shall be exploring some of the unique challenges faced by tech teams and the business functions supporting them and how a more nurturing, coaching approach can be adopted to create happy, productive teams with great retention.  Stay tuned to my Linked In feed for all of June.

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