As Black History Month comes to a close, we turn to Anaplan’s newly appointed Senior Vice President of Connected Planning Victor Barnes for insight on diversity in the tech industry. Before coming to Anaplan, Victor spent 26 years at The Coca-Cola Company. During that time, he traveled extensively and worked internationally, building a wealth of experience in multiple industries, markets, cultures, and business models. He believes there is huge value to organizations and communities when a diverse workforce flourishes.
According to the U.S. Equal Economic Opportunity Commission’s Diversity in Tech Report, Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous populations account for 16 percent of the IT industry in 2019, with Asians accounting for another 14 percent. While there has been an increase in diversity over the last 10 years, there is more to be done.
The Community team recently interviewed Victor to get his perspective on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Q: What is the benefit of having a diverse workplace?
Victor: It’s my understanding that one of the reasons Anaplan uses Tilt assessments is to build a growth mindset and that Tilt is based on the premise that people have some genetically predisposed and environmentally influenced differences. Understanding how people tilt (connection, impact, clarity, or structure) and striking a balance on teams is a performance differentiator. I encourage leaders to apply this thinking to diversity, which connects to why studies show diverse firms perform better. The best companies seek diversity throughout their ranks. Successful companies embrace the resulting mix of backgrounds and perspectives in their cultures.
Q: What career advice do you have for people of color?
Victor: I have the same advice for everyone—get close to the money! Understand how your company makes money and how your value and contributions make a positive impact.
Q: What can an organization do to tackle inequality and lack of diversity in tech?
Victor: I’ll borrow an important concept from a book titled “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business": create clarity, overcommunicate clarity, and reinforce clarity about the "why.” Spend the time to understand where leaders really are on their journey about diversity—don’t assume they all “get it.” If leaders don’t get it, then the company has a decision to make: status quo or be the change you want to see.
Q: How can we diversify when the pipeline is so small?
Victor: The book “Leaders Eat Last” says a company must have a “Circle of Safety” that surrounds everyone in the organization. “By creating a Circle of Safety around the people in the organization, leadership reduces the threats people feel inside the group, which frees them up to focus more time and energy to protect the organization from the constant dangers outside and seize the big opportunities.” Attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse workforce is easier if the company feels like a safe place to work, and this starts by giving people a sense of belonging.
As a mentor to many throughout his career, he subscribes to the idea that you should be the change you want to see. As a Black executive in tech, Victor says he will “continue paying forward to others with a targeted focus on underrepresented communities that often lack mentors and inspiration that can strengthen their resolve to forge ahead with more confidence.”
Victor seeks to use his voice and experience to have one-on-one conversations with individuals who are seeking to demystify the path to their goals. As the youngest of seven children, Victor was the first college graduate. "Many people didn’t have career conversations around the dinner table growing up, hearing about palace intrigue, corporate politics, or how business enterprises work in general. As such, there can be gaps in knowledge to fill that we may be totally overlooking." Victor says he tries to do his part every day to foster inclusion. He believes intentional inclusion is the way to offset historical bias, whether that bias was unintentional or not.
Do you have questions for @VictorB? Leave them in the comments below.