What it means to be “proudly building diversity”: Conversations with some of the mthree talent team in North America

What it means to be “proudly building diversity”: Conversations with some of the mthree talent team in North America

30/06/2021

 

Once upon a time, a graduate applied for a tech role with an investment bank. He aced the technical test. He really wanted the job. He interviewed.

Then came the crushing feedback. He didn’t get it because he didn’t show enough interest.

The recruiter was surprised. She called him to offer some tips for the future. Afterwards, he emailed her, explaining that he was autistic. He had struggled to show enthusiasm, even though he felt it in his heart.

The recruiter knew she had to do something. With his permission, she relayed the situation to the client, asking them not to interpret his symptoms as a lack of interest.

They reconsidered his application. He interviewed for another role. Out of 14 people who interviewed that week, he came out on top. He’s now in training at the mthree Academy.

And he’s not alone.

Here at mthree, where we’re tackling entrenched biases to help more graduates get the jobs, they’re capable of – while also helping our clients bring in amazing people who’d otherwise fly under their radar – it’s a daily occurrence.

It’s one of the factors that earned us the Candidate Experience Award at the TIARA US Talent Solutions Awards. As the judges said, “mthree showed agility and creativity in their approach to a huge challenge for employers: how to ensure recent college graduates excel in their first jobs.”

We wanted to find out more about what this means to our folks out there on the frontlines, so we caught up with Scott, Chanel, Houda and Steve from our North America talent team to find out more. Read on for the interview.

 

Scott Coleman-Allan, Head of Talent, North America

You’re a diverse bunch, attracting people from all backgrounds – how did the team get to where it is today?

"I built my team around diversity. And by that, I’m not really talking about ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation (although with us that’s a given!). I’m talking about anything that brings a different perspective.

For instance, I’ve hired people from nontraditional backgrounds for recruitment, like Steve, who was previously working at a nonprofit. It’s more “risky” than hiring someone who fits the blueprint. But it’s helped change lots of people’s minds, including my own, about the invisible barriers that exist in outdated selection processes.

This principle flows out into the way we hire and train grads for our clients. The reason I love mthree is that we provide opportunities to people who traditionally don’t have these opportunities. We’re coming in with fresh eyes, looking for the potential that others ignore. We’re not just looking for folks with a computer science degree from a tier one university. If you have an interest in a technical role, we can prepare you for it.

Some organizations won’t consider someone who went to a community college. Or they dismiss applicants who studied later in life. Hiring managers tend to only want young people for entry-level roles, but an older person’s life experience could be worth its weight in gold..."

 

What’s holding organizations back from being more inclusive?

"I’ve noticed a tendency to think about diversity as just a couple of factors. There’s so much else to consider that gets overlooked.

Chanel in my team is leading a project about entry requirements at the moment, looking into the ways that overly restrictive selection criteria can do more harm than good, causing everyone to miss out. Often this is a small way that you can make a big change.

Also, there’s a misconception about how difficult it’s going to be internally to become more inclusive. Yes, sometimes you need to make adjustments for neurodiversity or physical disabilities. But it doesn’t always have to cost a lot or take a huge investment of time.

For someone with dyslexia for example, you might simply need to be more concise in your instructions and make some adjustments in group settings. Not everyone will have the same needs for extra support."

 

What’s the one piece of advice you’d offer a team that wants to develop their diversity mindset?

"Speak to each other more. Find out about people’s backgrounds, if they’re happy to talk about it. Ask questions and listen.

Your team could be diverse in ways you didn’t know. Not all diversity is visible. Maybe it’s their education or socioeconomic background, or maybe they have a neurodiversity, or maybe they grew up in a different country.

There are always opportunities to embrace differences in thinking, right now, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. You always have the chance to look at your work as a team through a new lens, to challenge the way things are done, and challenge each other too. What are we getting right? What could we improve on?

Really though, that’s the easy bit! The hard bit is to actually take the feedback on board and then run with it, especially when you’re a more senior person.

None of this can work without communication and openness. To learn from each other, you have to trust each other. That’s why we do a 15-minute morning standup where we talk about what we’ve got on for the day and any support we need from colleagues. We also do sessions for sharing knowledge and celebrating success. I turn to my team for advice, as well as vice versa.

It sounds cheesy but we treat ourselves as a community. The stereotype is that our industry is incredibly competitive. Sure, it’s a high-pressure environment, but it can be a supportive environment too."

 

Chanel Ford, Alumni Talent Executive

 

Tell us a bit about your team’s way of working?

"It’s the most collaborative team I’ve ever worked in. And I’ve been working for 15 years!

I don’t think any two of us come from the same place. More than that though, we have different ways of life, different previous careers… we’ve got a muay tai fighter, an ex-vet... we’re able to think outside the box to help each other out. We bounce ideas off each other all the time."

 

Our talent teams are often the first touchpoint in a graduate’s journey with mthree. Why do you think that’s a good thing?

"We really get to know people. We want to make sure that they’re really going to love their work as an mthree Alumni, and they’re comfortable with us as a company. That’s why we tend to do video interviews, not just phone interviews.

It also helps that we’re not directly tied to our clients or to the mthree Academy. I’m not a coder! We touch all the different areas of mthree, but we’re independent from them. So we can give graduates a perspective on what it’s like to be a candidate going for an entry-level job. We’re closest aligned with them, semi on the outside looking in."

 

Can you tell us a bit about the mthree Summer Fellowship?

"It’s a one-week intensive for people in their senior year at university. A lot of internships don’t really prepare you for the world of work, but our Summer Fellowship really takes you through the candidate experience, a day in the life. It’s specific to the pathways we have, from software development to production support. Our goal is to open up careers to more people from all backgrounds, especially at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)."

 

Houda Chraibi, Alumni Talent Executive

 

What brought you to mthree?

"I guess it was an unusual route! Initially I was a nurse, following in my mother’s steps. I admired her empathy. I came to realize I liked the social side of nursing (not just taking blood!) so I did another degree in human science and a certificate in entrepreneurship.  

I then heard about jobs in the military via a family friend. I wanted a new challenge, so I went for it. It was hard, challenging, an amazing experience. It involved a lot of physical activity and mental resilience. It can break you or make you stronger, it made me stronger. I practiced during Ramadan, not eating, pushing 200lbs. But I did it! After I qualified, I was a reservist in the infantry. Later on I became an admin clerk for the army. 

Eventually I found my way here. I love helping other people, reassuring them psychologically. It’s what I loved about nursing, it’s what I loved about being in the military, it’s what I love about mthree, working with graduates.  

There’s so much encouragement and positivity in our team. People aren’t robots and mthree understand that. Communication helps a lot."

 

What do you see as the key to great communication at work?

"Having conversations with people to really try to understand who they are. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. The human aspect is very important.

For example, we use video meetings not just for planning work but also for talking about life outside of work. Emotional intelligence means building relationships with other people, to understand them and to help them understand you.

If you can, it helps to pay attention to the verbal and nonverbal elements of communication. Reading faces, voices, body language. There are clues you can pick up on to see if someone is OK or not."

 

Steve Ramos, Talent Team Lead

 

You all have so much energy for the work you do with graduates. Where does it come from?!

"We know ourselves that it can be uncomfortable when you’re starting off your career. You’re already worried that you don’t know anything, and on top of that, you don’t really feel like you can connect with anyone because you have nothing in common.

Sometimes you’re not even aware of your options in the first place.

I can relate to that experience, being hispanic myself. I grew up in low-income neighborhoods as a kid. Everyone I was surrounded by had low-paying jobs. For a long time, I thought that was all there was. So just exposing people from all backgrounds to opportunities they might not see in their everyday lives is really important."

 

As a diverse team, how do you play to your strengths?

"The others have covered a lot of points already here, so I’ll talk about code switching. The idea of bringing your authentic self to work has become a bit of a cliche, but an awareness of code switching can help you be genuinely inclusive when it comes to underrepresented groups.

Think of it almost like another language. For example, in low-income neighborhoods, people might not be used to speaking in a formal setting. They may feel the need to use different words to present themselves as someone they are not. They might not even consider a job at an investment bank at all because they’re afraid they won’t sound smart enough or that they can’t be themselves. It’s about being able to meet people where they are, then building their confidence so they start to see that they have what it takes. 

I’m not necessarily saying “anything goes”. There’s always a learning curve in a corporate environment, wherever you’re from. That’s why we cover professional skills in our training at mthree as well as technical skills."

 

Imagine you’re talking to a new graduate this summer. They’re interested in tech or finance, but they’re struggling to picture themselves fitting in. What advice do you give them?

"Most importantly, have faith in yourself. You can help to carve out space in an organization. You can help to initiate some of the changes you want to see. So don’t be afraid to challenge yourself by going into an organization that seems to be lagging behind others. It starts with one person.

Also, reach out to build a network of people. It helps to have a mentor. Make contacts, make connections. People you share a background with are often extra willing to share advice and point you in the right direction.

 

And that includes us! Why not take a look at our mthree Alumni graduate program.