Hiring for Diversity in Technology

Alyssa-Marie Lefebre, Talent Acquisition Lead

Although we’ve been serving our customers and partners for many years now, we carved out from our parent company relatively recently, in 2019. This means that while our team is well established, we’re seen as fairly new or unknown as a brand for candidates in the marketplace. Our recent funding has enabled us to quickly grow our team to meet the growing needs of our business, which has brought me – as our Talent Lead – the additional challenge of ensuring our pipeline is as diverse as it can be across a flurry of hiring!

Like many other startups, we’re in the process of growing our DE&I practice across the company while juggling a lot of other priorities as well – so I thought I’d share some tips that I’ve picked up along the way that have made a big difference in meeting our DE&I objectives in hiring.

Encouraging diversity in our candidate pipeline

The first thing that we did was to establish a company-wide diversity OKR (objectives and key results). This helps me track month-over-month to make sure that the candidates we interview represent a broad diversity across a range of criteria including ethnic, cultural, and religious background, neurodiversity, gender identification, age, parental status, etc. This has allowed us to make sure we’re promoting diversity from the top of the candidate funnel and led to a more diverse team!

One of our first diversity goals was to ensure our Backend and Frontend Engineering teams were more gender balanced. This was a very prominent goal for us because we recognize there is a huge gap in the technology market in Toronto. According to the January 2019 report “Who Are Canada’s Tech Workers” published by Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, “men were almost four times more likely than women to work in a tech occupation.” This report indicated that the tech workforce is made up of 80% male and 20% female representation. In understanding the low representation of women in the tech workforce, we leveraged international hiring and sought out more female candidates on the market to better balance off our hiring pipelines. We’re proud to say that 33.3% of our team are now comprised of folks identifying as female. By adding these wonderful female engineers to our team, we feel stronger as a business and more capable of connecting to the truly diverse and global customers that we service. That said, we still have a lot of work to do to get to our goal of creating a 50/50 gender balanced team.

Leveraging third party relationships

Partnerships have always been key to our business growth. They help augment our capabilities while keeping the team focused on our core capabilities. So when we met the team at VanHack – who help connect folks, primarily software developers and designers, from abroad to find work and relocate to Canada – it was only natural that we partner with them. They’ve enabled us to hire international talent and expand our talent pool beyond Toronto or even Canada, increasing our reach and enabling us to hire more female and BIPOC engineers. It was really through key strategic partnerships like VanHack that we were able to get closer to our gender balancing goals within our engineering team. We also occasionally partner with the ACCES Employment team to get connected to newcomers to Toronto who may be looking for their first opportunity in Canada. ACCES has helped us get in front of many awesome newcomers to Toronto that have helped to elevate our business.

Building for the future

We’re only at the beginning of our DE&I journey and there’s so much that we want to do! Looking to our future, we’re experimenting with the idea of building global teams to sustain our growth. We’re excited about the opportunity to hire folks not only outside of the GTA but North America wide and overseas! We feel like this will give us a unique opportunity to tap into a global talent market to reach candidates from all over the world. In doing this, we’ll have to strategically think about what inclusivity from a hiring and retention perspective looks like in different geographic regions. We’d also need to think about how our core values need to adapt to the very different communities we’d be building teams in! To tackle these new challenges, we’re leveling up our People Practices team with a new hire that will help us with our international recruitment and retention strategy. Stay tuned…

At Sensei Labs, we’re always looking to engage with more community groups that can help us increase diversity in our candidate pipelines. Our team is interested in becoming mentors to junior developers and people who are interested in getting into tech. We’ve been looking out for an organization to partner with who could benefit from more mentors! Once we’re back at our new office (and it’s safe to do so), we’d also love to support community groups by hosting community-run events in our new office space located right new Yonge and Bloor! If you’re interested in partnering with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Alyssa-Marie Lefebre

Alyssa’s focused on attracting and retaining top talent and building out an inclusive recruitment strategy to set us up for fast, scalable growth in the future. Key to this strategy is developing programs to engage with unique groups and ensuring that we’re fostering a diverse pipeline of candidates when we’re hiring for new roles. An avid reader, Alyssa is partial to Caribbean literature and stories about social justice and empowerment.


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