Diversity in Tech: MSBAs and Autodesk Host Women in Data
UC Davis MSBA students present the latest in their BAx Meetup Series
Students from the UC Davis Master of Science in Business Analytics program recently partnered with software designer Autodesk and the non-profit group Women in Data to host a panel discussion on diversity in tech for the student-led BAx Meetup Series.
Data and business analytics enthusiasts from Autodesk, UC Davis and various corners of the Bay Area’s tech industry crowded into the Autodesk Gallery along San Francisco’s iconic Embarcadero waterfront to participate in the interactive panel discussion.
The timing of this meetup was particularly critical for the MSBA students, who graduate in June 2018 as the program’s inaugural class. The majority of these students will soon begin their search for positions at technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.
THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF DIVERSITY
Surrounded by Autodesk’s gleaming interactive design exhibits, our panelists discussed their own experiences with diversity in the workplace, as well as in the STEM fields and in tech recruiting.
On our panel was Danny Guillory, who has been spearheading the global diversity and inclusion initiative at Autodesk. Guillory’s team has developed business frameworks and development efforts that have helped establish Autodesk as a leading tech company for diversity and inclusion.
“Enriching your employee pool with representatives of different genders, races and nationalities is key for boosting your company’s joint intellectual potential.” – Heidi Grant and David Rock, Harvard Business Review.
He spoke in detail about what he sees as the three dimensions of diversity that should be at the forefront of team development:
- Human: your race, gender, sexual orientation
- Cultural: your ethics, religion, values, etc.
- Systems: the way you do things, the processes you employ in the workplace, e.g.
Guillory argues that if you can balance your team across these three perspectives, decision making will improve, innovation will excel and your final product will simply be better due to the diversity of its team.
VIDEO: TURNING DATA INTO ACTION
Simi Hunjan, director of partner relations at Women in Data and a graduate student at the University of the Pacific, spoke on our panel about her experience in healthcare analytics. She also emphasized the importance of diversity in teams, especially around decision making.
“Diverse teams tend to be more effective when you’re trying to solve complex problems,” said Hunjan.
The panel went on to discuss how homogeneous teams often lack core competencies and neglect important viewpoints in problem solving.
HOW TO BUILD DIVERSITY
Alumna Jane You MBA 14, a senior product manager of analytics at Autodesk, emphasized how corporate processes, when designed correctly, can help managers assess and measure their team’s success in incorporating diversity.
“In the short term, it’s always easier for a manager to build a team full of people who think exactly like they do,” she said. “But in the long term, diverse backgrounds and points of view will always win out.”
She explained how it’s possible for leaders, in the absence of adequate resources, to conduct their own diversity analysis of their teams. Collecting their own data, through observation or short surveys, she said, can help to assess a team’s composition and give insights to where the team can be more inclusive.
One MSBA student in the audience said that the panelists alleviated some of her concerns about stereotyping when it comes to applications and interviews, despite more diversity in workplaces.
“The discussion this evening around diversity in technology companies was invaluable for me,” she said. “It made me feel much more confident about the tech landscape I’m entering in the Bay Area.”
MEETUPS DRAW THOUGHT-LEADERS IN ANALYTICS
The BAx Meetup Series goes hand-in-hand with the UC Davis MSBA core curriculum and has become a favorite for aspiring business analysts in San Francisco. We hope to keep improving the experience for our growing number of participants.
The MSBA program’s home in the heart of San Francisco is the perfect environment for fostering innovation in data analytics and exploring the relationships between data and business. Centrally located in the big data capital of the world, the program provides innumerable opportunities to connect with trailblazing business analytics professionals and thought leaders.
Our next meetup will be in May and another in June. Follow BAx Meetups for details.*Note: Neda Farzinnia, the global head of quantitative strategy at YouTube and a member of the industry advisory board at the Graduate School of Management, was also slated to be a panelist at Tuesday’s event. Due to events at the San Bruno headquarters on April 3, Neda was unable to make it to our event. We send our thoughts to those affected.