How Companies Like Zendesk, Datadog and Slack Incorporate Diversity into Their Hiring

December 6, 2017

At OpenView, we strongly believe that diversity starts from the top. When a leader genuinely cares about diversifying their organization, they create an open space for progress and innovation. We spoke to 15 top software leaders to learn how they foster diversity within their own companies. Through these conversations, it became clear that while there’s no silver bullet to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, there are many passionate leaders moving the needle in the right direction.

Read on to learn how some of the best known tech companies create diverse workplaces.

Rob Tomchick

Rob Tomchick
Head of Sales, Lever

“It starts with making everyone feel included. You can make grand plans to hire people from diverse backgrounds, but if they don’t see and hear about an inclusive environment at the company, they won’t join. And if they don’t find an inclusive environment when they join, they’ll leave. Start by taking an honest look at your company and determine if everyone truly has equal access to rewards and opportunities. What behavior is rewarded? What are the feedback loops for people to safely share their concerns? Are you proactively asking for feedback?


Stephanie Berner

Stephanie Berner
Senior Director Customer Success Management and Customer Advisory, Box

“My personal belief is that on this topic, our most critical responsibility as executives is to be honest about where things actually stand, and avoid making statements about commitments to diversity without actual action or results to show for it (which I think plagues Silicon Valley right now — everyone talks about it, very few actually change).”


YWassenaar - Mar16Yvonne Wassenner
CEO, Airware

“Make diversity and inclusion part of your daily habit. Bring in diverse and inclusive leaders at the top; leaders who can be the social consciousness in the room and pull in more talented team members from their diverse communities. Start from a position of trust, seek to educate those who mis-step or miss opportunities to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.  Reward those who learn – jettison those who do not.”


Chris ComparatoChris Comparato
CEO, Toast

At Toast, our mission and business revolve around food and technology. Food is a central and universal art form that brings people together, allowing us to appreciate differences, varying cultures and diverse backgrounds. Our managers and teams hire and build their teams with this in mind, for example successfully partnering with organizations such as She Geeks Out and numerous University diversity and inclusion programs. We are thoughtfully and incrementally building our leadership team to be increasingly diverse. We also foster an impactful level of organic diversity in our culture through various clubs and groups at Toast including through Multi Grain and Women at Toast. All of this is a work in progress with more to do, but we feel we are putting the right foundational and building blocks in place.”


Kyle PorterKyle Porter
CEO, SalesLoft

“I don’t want to inject gender diversity because it’s the politically correct thing to do. I want to honor females in the organization because I want to win and they help do just that! We hold all hands meetings every week with internal and outside speakers – each time has included at least one female speaker. By bringing in outside speakers to discuss their own experiences and by creating mentoring opportunities in our organization, we create an environment where everyone – no matter race or gender – can flourish.”


Max Yoder

Max Yoder
CEO, Lessonly

“We strive to build a diverse culture representing different backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints – gender is only one component. For example, our product team isn’t just computer-science majors, but a mix of people who have learned to be developers and engineers through traditional and non-traditional routes. That diversity of background provokes diversity of thought and allows us to see more angles and find more interesting solutions than we otherwise might. Bringing these non-traditional people aboard started with finding one person who fit the mold, and then, with his permission, mining his network for other candidates. Everything blossomed from there.”


Mike Bergelson

Mike Bergelson
CEO, Everwise

“We’ve dedicated significant resources to building a world-class development experience for women in leadership because more women at the top means stronger companies, and because women deserve the chance to get there. Internally, we’re proud to have nearly equal representation among men and women overall, including women in key leadership roles at the individual contributor, middle management, executive and board levels. But our work is nowhere near done. In particular, we need to bring more diversity to our C-suite and board of directors. We’re continually looking for ways to increase diversity of thought, perspective and demographics.”


David Cancel

David Cancel
CEO, Drift

“The only thing that works when it comes to diversity at a company is making it a core value from day one. It has to be in your DNA. Otherwise by the time you get to 100+ people, it’s too late. We love this quote from Verna Myers: “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” That’s become a key part of hiring and our culture here at Drift.”


MT Ray

M.T. Ray
VP of Talent, High Alpha

“Diversity and inclusion in the tech industry are complex issues with roots across the entire talent pipeline. High Alpha is committed to leveraging our unique capabilities to address this problem, from the talent services we provide cross-portfolio to the companies we invest in through our venture fund. In 2016, we launched the Blue Angels Women’s Group to encourage the women at High Alpha companies to build deeper relationships, provide a platform for more intentional professional development and represent women in tech in the broader Indianapolis community. The group has had a profound impact both internally and externally, providing great networking and mentoring opportunities for the women that work across our portfolio, as well as driving a more diverse pipeline of talent. As we look at our goals in 2018, we will be expanding programming to include the men of High Alpha. It’s important that we are all part of this conversation.”


Astha Malik

Astha Malik
VP of Platform and Product Marketing, Zendesk

“While leadership should set the tone for diversity and inclusion, its success depends on how we influence and make it easier for teams to embrace and act. Opening the door for candid conversations and accepting it will be hard but is the first step towards making it real. And like any other imperative for business and cultural success, leaders should then define measurable outcomes with a framework for success. These can include intolerance for certain behavior and quantifiable goals for talent screening, hiring, and retention coupled with development programs for generating awareness on why it matters and fostering diverse talent with opportunities. The combination of conversations, actionable commitment and leading by example is what can truly make a difference.”


Grant McGrail

Grant McGrail
Head of Enterprise Sales, WeWork

“I’ve spent over a decade in the software industry, where it’s common to see disproportionately male sales teams. WeWork is intended to be an inclusive community. As a company, we have an unofficial target for an even gender split staff and we are not far off that now. I’m proud to say our global enterprise sales team is nearly an even gender split too which gives us a distinct advantage when interacting with a variety of clients. It is very much our intention to ensure this balance remains as we grow.”


Josh FeastJosh Feast
CEO, Cogito

One major way we can ensure Cogito’s continued success is by fostering teams comprised of people with different backgrounds and perspectives. To build a more diverse company, I made sure that I LED the initiative and educated myself on why diversity is so important. We’ve built diversity into our cultural operating principles (it’s one of our five core values) and have spent a lot of time explaining to our employees that it’s not about social justice, it’s about WHY and HOW diversity impacts business performance for the better. We’ve implemented tracking measures to monitor employee engagement and company progress around diversity, and have been completely open about the data within our organization. We also recently partnered with NCWIT to support us in this company-wide mission, and chose this organization as a partner because their research and data-based approach to tackling the diversity challenge is wholly unique.”


Olivier PomelOlivier Pomel
CEO, Datadog

We strongly believe that people from different backgrounds and experiences make innovation possible at Datadog. To foster a diverse workforce, we’ve implemented a combination of community outreach, employee benefits, and management objectives. These include organizational partnerships (with groups like OutInTech and StartHer) for sourcing talent, employee benefits that appeal to candidates at varying stages of life and with varying personal needs and by making diversity hires a key objective for recruiters and managers. In addition to these ongoing initiatives, we are continuing to look for new ways to attract and grow diverse talent at every level across our organization.”


Jeff Diana

Jeff Diana
High Growth Consultant & Former CPO, Atlassian

“You can’t build a diverse workforce by depending on a hiring agenda alone, it has to be integrated into your company’s culture. Choose one of your best business leaders to lead the mission – not just a diverse leader, but one who is respected and admired. It’s important that that leader does not over-commit – people aren’t expecting instant success, but they do want commitment, focus and consistency. At Atlassian, we did a lot of unconscious bias training to help employees understand how one’s mind works when vetting and hiring talent. We were also very open about our stats and progress around diversity hiring, and reported at the team level (rather than just at the company level) to ensure that all teams had diverse representation. It’s also crucial to create a diverse board. Atlassian hired 3 diverse board members before going public. Lastly, always hire the BEST person for the job. Any time you hire for any reason other than merit, you discredit the diverse employees that already work for your organization.”


Glen Evans

Glen Evans
Head of Global Recruiting, Slack

It starts from the top. The CEO and leadership team has to create a safe space for diversity to be discussed openly. There are so many reasons people care, or should care, about workplace diversity, and that message has to be tied directly to company values. At Slack we started talking about the importance of diversity very early on – it’s everyone’s problem to tackle here, we don’t have one particular recruiter focused on it for that reason. Our university recruiting program is tied to all non-traditional schools, which has been a great way to find diverse talent that we might not have had exposure to at more commonly sought-after universities.”

How are you fostering diversity within your own organization? Share what’s worked with the OpenView Labs community.

Sarah Duffy

Director of Talent

Sarah partners with OpenView’s portfolio companies to consult on recruitment strategy and to source and hire the top talent they need to scale their teams. Before joining OpenView, Sarah was Director of Recruiting at Betts Recruiting – a talent agency that specializes in pairing sales and marketing talent with software startups.