Many Hands: How DockYard Builds Diversity

By: Sarah Woods
People sitting with arms around one another

Diversity in the tech industry is an area that, rightfully, is getting a lot of attention. Companies from New York to Chicago to San Francisco are putting together diversity teams, hosting diversity-focused conferences, and seeking new ideas to make their workplaces more diverse.

At DockYard, we created a diversity group with a focus not only on attracting and hiring staff, but also on creating the kind of respectful and collaborative environment that makes all of us feel welcome. These are some of the things we’ve learned during our ongoing initiative.

Geographic Diversity

Most of the articles I have read focus almost entirely on gender and racial diversity, which are very important when discussing diversity in the workplace. However, these are not the only things we consider.

DockYard is unique in that we are a 100% distributed company with professional consultants from across the United States and even parts of Europe. This geographic diversity enriches our culture with different perspectives created from different life experiences. I have learned so much by simply discovering someone’s story — how they grew up, what their childhood was like, even their favorite foods. We connect by sharing our stories and finding similarities as well as discovering the beauty in our differences.

Environment of Trust

I am lucky enough to be part of a group of very passionate colleagues in our diversity group at DockYard. What I have really enjoyed about this group is that instead of jumping right into a checklist of items to accomplish, we spend a lot of time simply having discussions about our experiences, current events, and even defining what diversity means and doesn’t mean for each of us.

These heartfelt and emotionally-charged discussions require us to be vulnerable and to build trust. We need to feel empowered to address our issues, without fear of judgment. In spending that time building trust, we became comfortable knowing that even if someone disagrees with our opinion, we know they would address it from a place of respect. Only with that established environment of trust could we begin to tackle other issues.

Inclusive Hiring Process and Workplace

We first looked at our existing demographic data to find opportunities for more gender and racial diversity throughout our teams. We encourage more candidates from diverse backgrounds to apply by evaluating our job postings to remove gendered language and revamping processes to ensure various perspectives on candidates.

We also added a pronoun section in our recruitment and employee portal to affirm we’re addressing individuals appropriately rather than making assumptions. But hiring more consultants from diverse backgrounds isn’t enough; we need to make sure that we’re hiring people into an environment where everyone feels valued.

How do we make sure our work environment is welcoming? We started by making inclusion a part of regular company discussions—not as a “check-the-box” activity, but as a matter of culture.

Members of our diversity team reach out to new hires, outside of the onboarding process, to ensure they feel included. The diversity group is open to anyone that wants to participate, but we also include all employees through our collaboration and messaging channels to read articles, and engage in thoughtful, empowering discussions. We come from a place of good intent and assume the same of others, which has allowed us to educate in a way that is accepted by our employees.

Living Our Values

Throughout our initiatives, we have realized that we need to focus on progress, not perfection. We want to be better, which means we are never “done” with diversity and inclusion, and there will be times where we should do more of one thing or less of another. DockYard employees are committed to growth and at times we need to pivot so we keep improving.

This focus on the journey, rather than the destination, has allowed us to consider any and all ideas that are brought up and, in doing so, we are able to evolve and develop as a company that lives its values.

DockYard is a digital product agency offering exceptional user experience, design, full stack engineering, web app development, custom software, Ember, Elixir, and Phoenix services, consulting, and training. With a nationwide staff, we’ve got consultants in key markets across the U.S., including Portland, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Miami, Washington D.C., and Boston.