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Diversity in Engineering at NIWeek


By: Rebecca Bassett, VP and Cofounder of the NI Women’s Network and Product Marketing Manager, Services and Proficiency


Sources all around us—news outlets and social media—tell us that many companies are pursuing diversity and inclusion initiatives to give team members a safe place to share their views, encourage treating people with respect, and level the playing field. But other than being “the right thing to do,” why are companies investing in diversity and inclusion efforts? Why does it matter? Because diversity is the future. And, at NIWeek, we offer a whole track of sessions dedicated to exploring it together.



In preparation for the NIWeek Diversity in Engineering Track, we asked some of our leaders how they see the full force of all voices having an impact on engineering, innovation, and business. Here’s what they said.


Healthy Tension


“One of the benefits that diversity brings may be surprising. Tension. Differing opinions and perspectives will inevitability result in some tension. This, on its face, may sound stressful and exhausting, but it’s something that we want,” says Omid Sojoodi (VP, R&D).


Tension is the relationship between ideas or qualities with conflicting demands or implications. “What we want is ‘healthy’ tension between all the demands that come with creating software, and it’s what will help us ensure the right decisions are being made.”


On a similar note, Shelley Gretlein (VP, Global Marketing) shares, “The engineering challenges we are solving in today’s world are more complex and moving faster than ever, we don’t have the time or the luxury of group-think mistakes—we need to be inclusive in our discussions and decisions.


Faster and Better Innovation


A well-known benefit of diversity, backed by decades of research, is that diverse groups are more innovative than homogenous groups. According to Shelley Gretlein, “For me, diversity in engineering means more innovation. In my experience, when team members with different perspectives, different backgrounds, and different experiences are all around the table, we innovate faster, and we innovate better.”


Kevin Ilcisin (VP, Corporate Strategy) adds, “Creativity and innovation are the result of individuals and teams combining and synthesizing existing knowledge/ideas and imagining what the new combination may produce. It sounds simple, and it is—we can enhance our innovation efforts if we broaden the collection of ideas/knowledge and the lenses of synthesis.



Creative Problem Solving


The impact of diverse expertise may seem more obvious here. But what about the impact that social diversity has on problem solving? Jason Green (SVP, Sales) explains, “Diversity brings different life experiences and perspectives which leads to the creativity required to drive disruptive innovation!”


A Scientific American article echoes this: “Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.” People who are socially different from one another in many dimensions (race, gender, and age, for example) bring unique information and experiences to the table.


Engineering teaches us that there is more than one way to solve a problem. Different perspectives reveal this.


Diversity brings healthy tension, innovation, and creative problem solving


The result? “Diversity means we come up with the best ideas to help us create the most innovative platform to drive growth for our company and opportunities for our employees,” says Scott Rust (SVP, R&D). Data supports this.


As reported by Gallup, “Companies in the top quartiles for ethnic and gender diversity are 35% and 15%, respectively, more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Simply put, diversity can provide a competitive advantage.” And Cate Prescott (VP, HR) sums it up well: “ means that we get to leverage the very best representation of society’s talent in the pursuit of developing the very best solutions for scientists and engineers that they can then use to help make the world a better place.”


To be the leader in automated test and automated measurement takes more than building a world-class platform—it requires diversity in our teams and, as a result, our thoughts and approaches to engineering challenges. We certainly don't have all of the answers yet, but we are learning, and we invite you to join us on this journey towards enhancing diversity and inclusion.


We are bringing diverse speakers and individuals together at NIWeek 2019 to explore diversity and inclusion topics at the first-ever Diversity in Engineering Track. On Tuesday, May 21, and Wednesday, May 22, at the Austin Convention Center, hear inspiring speakers discuss approaches to and benefits of promoting diversity and inclusion in the technology industry.


Register Today for NIWeek