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Professional Diversity
Another Kind Of Diversity

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2022-11-03
For years, TV networks didn't have stars of other races. It was close-minded thinking; and there were only 3 channels anyway so they really couldn't have made much more money. Then starting with some breakout hits like Sanford & Son and Chico & The Man in the 70s and ever since, the numbers have shown that racially diverse entertainment, on the whole, makes more money. But that's tv and film.

Did major companies in the modern era begin championing racial, cultural and gender diversity because they're such good people - or even because they feared economic boycotts that likely would never come? Hell no. Over time they crunched the numbers and figured out that diversity helps their bottom line.

Basically, diversity isn’t just for do-gooders and altruists. It makes you money.

"Traditional" Diversity

Benefits of ethnic and cultural diversity - This Harvard Business Review article cites a study of firms with diversity in their leadership being "70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market." You can take a deeper dive in this rich McKinsey article but among its insights is the observation that the most diverse companies show a 33% greater profit than the least diverse ones.

According to all sorts of studies, businesses that prioritize this "traditional" notion of diversity find that meetings are actually improved, decisions are better and employee retention is higher.

Professional Diversity

All of that said, what got me to write this article was the idea of a different kind of diversity. It's not the gender, cultural and ethnic diversity described above - that has been discussed a lot elsewhere and better than I can. What I wanted to share was the concept of professional diversity of experiences and approaches in a workplace.

If cultural diversity means avoiding groupthink and increasing the chances of innovative approaches in a workplace, then the same should hold for these other traits:

- Education: Advanced degrees, college and no college
- Work Experience: Startups, self-employed, small company experience, large company experience
- Industry Experience: Newbies vs. veterans
- Age: Older and young
- Personality: Bold vs. cautious
- Skills: Self-taught vs. from classes

One of our most widely-read articles here on this blog is an article from 2020 about how you need all kind of personality types are needed in an organization (and that "stupid-lazy" is actually NOT the worst employee attribute combo). A business certainly needs different personalities for each type of position. But even a team working together in one department could benefit from this "professional diversity" I'm describing here.

In Software

Personally, I've loved self-taught programmers. Somebody who has figured out a programming language by just diving in, to me, are my first hires on a programming team.

Anybody working as a specialist in one language inevitably has to deal with some other technology - e.g. a Java specialist will eventually have to know their way around SQL query language for databases, or get involved with another web service that might be in Python. Who knows. The self-taught coder will be able to figure the next thing out for sure. Furthermore, technology changes so much that you hopefully don't have programmers who have to go take a 6-week class to learn in a more formal environment if your business makes a technology change.

That said, I need to also make the case for the more traditionally educated programmer. First of all, someone who studied software development in school or even just a formal program has demonstrated more intention than the pick-up coder. The specialized education has a good correlation with ambition, which is a good thing. More formal teaching settings are thorough and cover all of the unsexy aspects of the job, whereas self-taught folks learn to code enough where the app just works whether or not some important corners were cut along the way.

When I'm working with Robert on a job here at Plannedscape, I think we bring the best of both worlds together. I thought I was thorough and could beat a discussion of options to death, but he can take it to the next level (in a good way). Career-wise, he's a shade more sensible while I'm a little more of a risk-taker by nature. Even though we arrived in generally the same place with very different approaches, this professional diversity doesn't cause any clashes. Instead, I find our working relationship to be a great yin-yang.

The Takeaway

All I want to do here is get you thinking about this, if only for a little bit. Consider the different professional types in your company and how they all add value. Maybe some day you'll be frustrated by a professional disagreement with a coworker and then remember that the slight intellectual tension of two different approaches is good for the business - and it's good for you personally.