At this year’s FullConTech conference in Redmond, one panel covered the issue of diversity in hiring and employee retention.

diversity panel

Photo courtesy Karen Miller.

Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of Bellevue’s DreamBox Learning, and Adriana Neagu, co-founder and CEO of Mercer Island’s Formotus, joined a panel all about encouraging diversity in the workplace, specifically through talent recruitment and retention.

Neagu said it’s about finding workers that bring different viewpoints, and it starts by looking at the culture fit of an employee. That can mean ignoring the names and schools on a résumé and going deep into who that person really is and how they might fit with the company.

“(It’s about) looking beyond the résumé and the skills and meeting the people,” she said. “Skills can be learned, attitudes less so.”

For Woolley-Wilson, diversity is one of her core values. Her father came to the United States from Haiti. She said he moved here for opportunity.

“Growing up in our home, the notion of diversity was something to be honored,” she said.

At DreamBox, Woolley-Wilson said there’s an expectation for the company to be as diverse as the clients it serves. DreamBox is an adaptive learning platform that markets itself as an elementary and middle school math software solution.

“We assume that every child has brilliance,” she said. That motto is adapted in the company’s talent pool. She said that DreamBox assumes its employees have intrinsic brilliance, allowing all talent the opportunity to succeed.

On the topic of employee retention, Neagu said it’s important to utilize all the skills an employee may have — even those skills that may not be part of their hiring. It’s a way to connect beyond “strict work” and let people’s passions come out.

“Other skills and experiences people have come to the surface and are taken seriously,” she said. “It becomes powerful in the arsenal of skills we have at our disposal.”

In addition to Woolly-Wilson and Neagu, Rebecca Clements from Moz and Annie Rihn from Zillow joined the conversation.

 

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