Using Leadership to Empower and Diversify
By Bhaskar Ramachandran, Vice President of Information Technology, Jabil
With undergraduate degrees in chemistry and computer science and a master’s degree in business administration, I entered the workforce as a developer for a database supplier. I went on to become a consultant with one of the top five consulting firms, specializing in Systems, Applications & Products (SAP) implementations, assisting companies with enterprise processes, which opened the door for me in the aerospace and defense industry. There, as a Divisional Chief Information Officer, I continued working on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and overall information technology (IT) systems and solutions. However, I found there was limited growth in the defense sector and began looking for companies in other industries that provided more opportunities and offered new challenges yet required my skill sets. That’s how Jabil and I found each other in 2014.
Given our significant SAP footprint and my experience working for other types of manufacturers, it wasn’t a huge leap for me into Jabil’s business. Even though I came from similar industries, I have seen the value that diverse and global backgrounds, experiences and ideas bring to a team and a company. After all, Jabil operates in about 30 different countries, and to drive successful performance throughout the company, we need to tap into all the different ways of thinking across all of those cultures and perspectives.
It’s not only important to have diverse thinkers in the room but also important for people to feel empowered and comfortable to share their ideas, which is why I use my role as a leader to create a welcoming environment for all, inspiring my employees to innovate and collaborate.
First, to fill a room with unique minds, we need to hire them. One way I drive diversity and inclusion efforts on my team is by making sure that for every open position we are hiring for, we consider a group of candidates with distinctly dissimilar resumes. My team and I make sure those who are interviewing the potential employees are also diverse, coming from different backgrounds and who come from a variety of levels of expertise. Both of these hiring tactics minimize unconscious bias and groupthink in the selection process and gives us a chance to learn what different skills and experiences we may be lacking as a department. I speak openly about diversity and inclusion with my teams, keeping it top of mind for everyone.
I also support diversity by providing opportunities for current employees to grow both professionally and personally. I set expectations and give employees the freedom to achieve those however they see fit, letting them know it’s okay to make mistakes and that I support them in their endeavors. This provides a great deal of independence and accountability, which makes them take calculated risks and innovate more, aligning to our company culture of working with ingenuity. It also gives them freedom to bring their diverse perspectives to the table.
As a leader, it’s important to hire a heterogeneous workforce, as well as support efforts to continue to diversify the current workforce through training and providing lateral movement across the company and teams. Employees can’t attain a varied skill set until their leaders give them the chance to take those opportunities, and I’m honored to hold a position at Jabil to provide that.