Organisations must put diversity at the heart of their technology teams. That’s the clear message from my recent podcast guest, Nicola Whiting MBE.
Organisations must put diversity at the heart of their technology teams. That’s the clear message from my recent podcast guest,Nicola Whiting MBE.
As co-owner and chief strategy officer of Titania, a cybersecurity and penetration testing company, Nicola is a role model for many in the industry. She provides government-level advice on how to encourage and facilitate diversity and was awarded an MBE for her services.
Listen to the podcast: How to Completely Change Your Mind about Cyber Security by Nicola Whiting below.
According to Nicola, the technology industry has two goals: to create new solutions that enable people to do “better and greater things”, and to ensure those solutions are resilient to attack. Organisations that haven’t invested in diversity can fall short on both counts.
The main danger is groupthink. When everyone in the room is of a similar type and background, they are likely to think in the same way. This not only limits innovation and curbs the number of creative options on the table, it also results in unchallenged – and therefore poor quality – decision making.
“Diversity makes us stronger, more resilient and more capable of multiple ways of thinking”
It’s Nicola’s belief that increased diversity in the workplace can help redress the balance. Diversity, she says, makes us stronger, more resilient and more capable of multiple ways of thinking.
And diversity comes in many forms; not only gender, ethnicity, age and physical ability, but neurodiversity – including those on the autistic spectrum and people with dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Nicola is a seasoned campaigner on the benefits of employing neurodiverse teams; and as a woman with autism, she advocates from experience.
Neurodiverse people bring new perspectives and have a natural tendency to think outside the box. They offer particular traits such as hyperfocus and pattern recognition that, if harnessed, can generate fresh ideas, create better solutions and improve bottom line profits.
The advantages don’t stop there. As well as boosting business, neurodiverse people add value to the workforce and help foster a ‘go-giver’ attitude – where colleagues support one other and value their differences.
But to reap the benefits, organisations must provide an environment that encourages neurodiverse employees to perform at their best. In the workplace, factors such as noise, colours and lighting are key. And on delivering training, it’s vital to consider different learner types.
“I’ve seen businesses go down because they were close-minded in terms of where they looked for talent”
Nicola points to examples of less-than-satisfactory training she’s endured over the years and describes the feeling of being unable to contribute her best as “emotionally draining”. Failing to accommodate the needs of the neurodiverse learner is, she says, like asking somebody in a wheelchair to take a training course on the stairs.
It’s a powerful argument, and one we have always championed at Stellar Labs. Our brain friendly methodology supports all types of learners, including those who learn ‘differently’. And we strive always to provide choice and a variety of learning experiences.
For instance, we provide information in different forms and in advance of Learning Labs to give people whatever time they need to process it. Our mission is to demonstrate best practice in supporting all learners to fulfil their potential. That way, we encourage productivity, not stifle it.
As Nicola explains, that’s an important consideration for today’s rapidly changing world. She’s seen businesses go down because they didn’t think about what the future might bring or were close-minded in terms of where they looked for talent.
Many neurodiverse people have the skills required to flourish in the cybersecurity sector. By taking steps to attract and retain these talented people, organisations can arm themselves against cyberattack, and enjoy all the benefits a diverse workforce brings.
Take it from Nicola – if you want to build future-fit tech teams that will increase innovation and improve cyberdefence, it pays to diversify.
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