Walking the Walk: How 4 Austin Tech Companies Prioritize Diversity

by Quinten Dol
September 17, 2019

In the modern tech industry, there are two types of companies: those that foster workplaces where people of all backgrounds feel supported and make key decisions — and those that offer little more than lip service to the whole idea.

To help find those companies that are truly walking that walk, we spoke to employees at four Austin tech companies with some of the best diversity initiatives in the city.

 

cloudflare diversity initiatives
photo via cloudflare

Cloudflare’s technology helps web-based applications work seamlessly and safely without requiring the addition of hardware, software or even changing any code. The company works with more than 20 million internet properties to boost performance, security and reliability for applications across a wide range of industries.

Head of People Janet Van Huysse discussed the tangible benefits her company sees for having a staff that reflects many different backgrounds. 

 

What diversity and inclusion initiatives do you have at your company? What tangible effects have those initiatives had on the business so far?

Cloudflare team members come from many different backgrounds, and we appreciate and celebrate these differences because diversity contributes to better decision-making, more innovation, stronger financial results and a better workplace for everyone.

A couple of ongoing initiatives include our partnerships with returnship programs like Path Forward, which provide apprenticeship opportunities for individuals that have taken extended time off to care for a loved one and want to return to work. We also attend conferences and events that reach underrepresented minorities like Grace Hopper Conference, Lesbians Who Tech, TAPIA, WomenHack, National Sales Network and more.

 

...we think diversity and inclusion efforts are a strategic priority for our company’s long-term goals.”

How will your company continue strengthening its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

At Cloudflare, we think diversity and inclusion efforts are a strategic priority for our company’s long-term goals. We will continue to invest in robust reporting so we understand the makeup of our global teams — where we have gaps, how our employees experience life at Cloudflare, and the impact of our efforts. We will continue to support our employee resource groups such as Proudflare (LGBTQIA+), Afroflare (African diaspora) and Women in Engineering. We will amplify the efforts of our “ally skills” trainings, and employee-led workshops which aim to teach simple, everyday ways to create a long-lasting supportive culture at Cloudflare. Our leadership team will continue to be vocal advocates for our diversity and inclusion initiatives so we can reap the benefits that diversity offers.

 

blackbaud austin tech company diversity initiatives
photo via blackbaud

There are plenty of ways in which Austin techies can use their skills to make the world a better place. One example is working for Blackbaud, which makes CRM tools to help nonprofit organizations like The American Red Cross and Rotary International manage donations and their relationships.

Technical Recruiter Johnathan Mesta touted the company’s many internal groups and programs designed to build and encourage diversity in its ranks. 

 

What diversity and inclusion initiatives do you have at your company? What tangible effects have those initiatives had on the business so far?

Diversity and inclusion initiatives play a big role in talent acquisition at Blackbaud. We partner with organizations like Women/Hack, Austin Hispanic Hackers and AnitaB.org to help us find the best engineers and technologists. Through our focus on cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment, we were named one of the AnitaB.org 2018 “Top Companies for Women Technologists,” and made Forbes' 2019 list of the “Best Employers for Diversity” for the second consecutive year.

 

We have several employee-led and executive-sponsored business affinity groups...”

How will your company continue strengthening its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Blackbaud is constantly seeking opportunities to increase our efforts to recognize and celebrate our diverse workforce. We have several employee-led and executive-sponsored business affinity groups such as BLEND (Black Employees Encouraging Diversity), Women in Tech, Pride @ Blackbaud and HOLA (Hispanic Organization for Learning and Advancement), which provide an enriching professional network for employees with common affinities and serve to engage company leadership in dialogue aimed at enhancing the employee experience.

 

modernize austin tech diversity initiatives
photo via modernize

Homeowners looking to upgrade their property’s energy efficiency with improved solar panels, windows, roofing and HVAC systems use Modernize to find the right contractors. The goal is to remove the friction and hassle often encountered when finding and soliciting business from contractors, making energy efficiency an achievable goal for all.

Software Engineering Manager Hunter Skrasek explained how Modernize’s forums and employee resource groups help foster a supportive work environment for all teammates.

 

What diversity and inclusion initiatives do you have at your company? What tangible effects have those initiatives had on the business so far?

Right now Modernize has two initiatives that immediately come to mind. We have employee resource groups, as well as a forum discussion around race and identity for people of color, LGBTQIA+ and allies.

Our flagship ERG, Ladies of Modernize, has already had an incredibly positive effect on the company. It’s given the women of Modernize the empowerment and resources to achieve success on their own terms, either personally or career-wise. Most recently, the group organized a back-to-school donation drive for the local nonprofit Girlstart, a great way for us to give back to the community.

 

Modernize is having the right conversations about very challenging-yet-important topics...”

How will your company continue strengthening its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Through our Explanatory Comma focus group — a forum for honest and empathetic discussion around race and identity for people of color, LGBTQIA+ and allies alike — Modernize is having the right conversations about very challenging-yet-important topics to ensure we are a diverse and inclusive place to work. As we have these conversations, we identify areas of improvement between coworkers. This forum also allows various underrepresented groups to rally and start the process to form more employee resource groups at the company.

 

flatiron school austin tech diversity initiative
photo via flatiron school

Flatiron School equips future software engineers, data scientists and user interface designers with the necessary knowledge and skills — without requiring a computer science degree. Classes can be taken on-campus or online, and include career coaching and job-placement support for graduates.

Austin and Houston Campus Director Lauren Bauml highlighted Flatiron School’s multitude of programs, scholarships and support groups designed to help people from all walks of life gain a foothold in the tech industry. 

 

What diversity and inclusion initiatives do you have at your company? What tangible effects have those initiatives had on the business so far?

Flatiron School has a demonstrated commitment to broadening access to tech education and career pathways, helping to ensure that the tech industry of the future is more reflective of society as a whole. We are proud to offer income share agreement as part of our mission to break down barriers to tech education. In partnership with other like-minded organizations, Flatiron School also offers scholarships to qualified students from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups in tech.

We facilitate conversations on current issues in tech with events ranging from women in tech panels to career growth workshops. Our events feature industry leaders representing diverse demographics in tech, and help to surface challenges underrepresented groups may face in the industry. We’re proud to foster a community that provides underrepresented groups in tech with the support, confidence and network of allies they need to successfully build careers in tech, and at Flatiron School.

 

We’ll continue to provide scholarships... to help build a more diverse and inclusive generation of tech leaders.”

How will your company continue strengthening its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Since 2012, Flatiron School has provided over $11 million in scholarships to help make tech education more accessible for women and low-income students. In 2019, we’ve given over $2 million in scholarships between the Facebook + Flatiron School Breakthrough Scholarship and Houston Community Boost Scholarship, Women Take Tech initiative and other diversity and community scholarships.

We’ll continue to provide scholarships to students across our programs and campuses to help build a more diverse and inclusive generation of tech leaders.

 

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