A big wet pile of slush has probably splashed on your face these couple of days. That slush is the amount of posts with a headline “Key takeaways from Slush 2018”. We wanted to avoid that and took our own point of view to the sum up of this amazing event, a human point of view. Next Toni, Jasu and Nelli share their findings over the topic.
Risto Siilasmaa’s opening speech was a very Finnish way to welcome people in to the dark north. The speech was short and the speaker didn’t bother smiling too much, but the content was spot on. Risto’s main point was that we need more personal ownership in today’s work. And by ownership he didn’t mean that everyone should be an entrepreneur but that each individual should feel ownership of the work he or she does. At VALA, we couldn’t agree more. Increasing the sense of ownership is one of the most powerful ways to increase meaningfulness in work.
Slush is a tech event and naturally there was a lot of talk about how to acquire and hold on to talented tech people. Culture seems to be the answer. No shit Sherlock!
Yeah well, sometimes it’s useful to get validation and verification to your own hypotheses’. In this case our H1 was verified, culture is the secret sauce. Just to mention a few here’s some of the people who talked a lot about the importance of culture: Justin Rosenstein (Co-Founder of Asana), Brian Halligan (CEO of Hubspot) and Cal Henderson (CTO of Slack). One idea that came from Halligan and Henderson, was that culture can be thought of as a product and culture ought to be reviewed and developed from different angles just like product development is done.
Brian Halligan also talked about the importance of diversity in a culture. Hubspot realised this when they reached 100 employees and noticed how their culture was becoming too homogenous. For our company this poses a challenge of how to create a culture where people share similar enough core values and feel dedicated to our mission, while trying to simultaneously build a diverse community and avoid creating a “echo chamber” of only like-minded people.
Then about the coding school. Everyone’s probably heard about it already and it’s all kinds of wonderful. But what we want to emphasise, according to the theme of this post, is that once again diversity was brought out as an important theme. The main goal of the new school is to increase diversity amongst programmers in Finland.
One negative thing about the school was that in the first phase it only takes in people under 30 years old. This has caused some debate but it’s been nice to see that the founders have taken the feedback seriously and are already considering changing the age restriction in the future. Overall the school is a wonderful effort from Supercell and the other parties involved, round of applause from VALA!
Tech companies should prepare for the new phase in talent mobility
The British investment firm Atomico published the “State of European Tech Report 2018”, a statement of Europe’s tech ecosystem on Tuesday at Slush.
One finding of the report, is that tech talent is 10 times more likely to move to another country than the average European citizen. This is good news for countries and companies struggling with a shortage of software developers and other tech talents, if they are able to attract the required talent from other countries.
This finding confirms that it is definitely not time to build walls and put up barriers within Europe, but rather make mobility more accessible and welcome new-comers. This is a good time for Finnish companies to question what their requirements for new hires and subcontractors are; is it really necessary to be able to speak Finnish in projects that are done mostly on English software or should hiring focus simply on who’s the best person to do the job?
Source: The State of European Tech Survey, 2018
The diversity and inclusion problem
It is the passive and lazy response to simply state that “the business is just dominated by white males, nothing I can do about it”.
The report and presentation by Atomico also raised the issue of a large and persistent diversity and inclusion problem with the industry. Only 7% of VC funds go to female or mixed gender teams in Europe and a staggering 46% of women have experienced discrimination in the European tech industry. Discrimination isn’t experienced only by women but also based on age, ethnicity, disability and socio-economic background.
It is somewhat ironic that that a huge diversity problem persists within the industry when simultaneously, almost 90% of respondents agreed that a diverse team is a benefit to company performance. At the same time, around 76% of people believe that their own company culture is inclusive and don’t seem to believe the problem stems from their own community.
So what can be done on a company-level?
I believe that everyone has a responsibility to do and say more on the topic. It is the passive and lazy response to simply state that “the business is just dominated by white males, nothing I can do about it”.
Founders and management should be more mindful of the topics of diversity and include diversity in strategy level decision-making. Companies should also critically assess their own actions: what are we doing to promote diversity, do we have regulations, values or processes in place that discriminate certain people and could we look more widely to include people from different backgrounds.
Source: The State of European Tech Survey, 2018
“Culture, culture, culture”
The importance of company culture to the wellbeing of business and its people came up over and over again throughout the 2-day extravaganza of Slush. Although the news of company cultures importance didn’t come as a surprise to anyone, the scope of its recognition further confirmed my own perception of its significance.
Culture seems to be the answer. No shit Sherlock!
On Wednesday at 12.40, Katelin Holloway, the VP of People and Culture from Reddit, Katarina Berg, the Chief of Human Resources Officer from Spotify and Anna Binder, the Head of People Operations from Asana came on stage at the Pink Stage to discuss the importance of HR in rapidly scaling companies. Although the subjects may seem like self-evident and forgone conclusions, the discussion between the three top professionals, reminded how important the following topics are to the wellbeing of both the company itself and its people:
- Company culture is relevant already before employee #1: Culture reflects the entire community’s identity already from day 1 and members should be mindful about what this identity is in order to both protect and develop the culture further. This is why values should be considered and written down asap.
- Mission leads the culture: Culture ought to be relevant to what the business is, and the mission should stay more or less the same in order to guide the path of the community and all decision-making.
- Transparency of compensation should be the key philosophy, no matter whether you follow consistent compensation models or flexible individual-based models.
- Successful onboarding of people should be a top priority and not handled hastily.
For me, the most memorable topic at Slush was how technology has developed to the point that instead of further developing it, it would be time to think how to protect people from the adverse effects of technology. Aza Raskin’s talk about How to create human protective technology summed up these problems accurately.
The main problems are ”blue lighting”, literally the blue light which comes from our devices making us sleepless and restless, and social media, which easily causes the lack of self confidence and ”fomo” (fear of missing out) while doing the “infinite scroll” – a scroll on Facebook or Instagram that never ends.
Also, believing what other people say more than believing in your own eyes has become a huge problem. The more likes or recommendations an article or a video has, the more you believe in its validity, no matter whether we talk about the flat Earth conspiracy or Vaccine controversies. For example, Youtube might recommend you these kind of videos even if you only watched a general motherhood related video earlier. These kinds of recommendations can, in the worst case scenario, lead to radicalisation and extremist thinking.
Technology is becoming more and more empathic, but that for sure isn’t enough to save human lives. Instead of human centered design we need human protective design.