How To Build Diversity into Your Team’s DNA?

by Karoli Hindriks June 22, 2017

This week, the newest team member of team Jobbatical flew in from Saudi Arabia. Originally from Egypt, Muhammed had been working in Saudi Arabia for the past couple of years and is now our new SysAdmin. Whenever a new team member arrives to Jobbatical, we welcome them with a team lunch. In Muhammed’s case we tried to postpone it to his second week due to Ramadan. But he insisted we keep our tradition just as it was and suggested that while we eat, he would tell us all about Ramadan and answer any questions we might have about it.

Our SysAdmin Muhammed giving us a session about what Ramadan is all about. Photo credits to our Content Marketer Dea Martinjonis.

And that’s exactly how it went down. On Tuesday, while our team ate our lunch, our new SysAdmin gave us an introduction to the background, tradition and details of the Islamic holy month. We learned how Ramadan is mainly a training of self-discipline and “feeling for the poor” is more of a myth; we learned how any fighting and cursing or even bad thoughts are forbidden during Ramadan.

We learned that a Muslim living in a non-Muslim country can observe Ramadan based on the timetable of the nearest Muslim country. That is pretty helpful in Estonia, where we’re currently getting almost 20 hours of daylight. Nevertheless, Muhammed decided to take the difficult road and follow the Estonian sun. No wonder our other Muslim colleague decided to return to Egypt for a few weeks and work remotely! We also learned that if you travel more than 80 kilometers a day, you may break Ramadan on that day, giving your body food for the extra effort — so traveling to Tallinn gave Muhammed a skip day!

Our fullstack engineer Kwun-Lok with my daughter Maya at our office (yes, we have a swing).

As I was sitting there with my team of smart and diverse people from twelve nationalities, listening to Muhammed speak and answer the (silly and not so silly) questions his new colleagues had, I thought to myself: If more teams did this, we would have a much more understanding world.

At Jobbatical, we have Roberto from Italy who brings us lasagna he makes based on his Mom’s recipe. We have David from the UK and Ahmed from Egypt who’ve joined a local football league. Then there’s Kwun-Lok from Hong Kong, who couldn’t believe the level of cleanliness of the air he breathes in Tallinn. We even have an Argentinian-Estonian love story that was born thanks to Jobbatical. But many teams in the world don’t have this kind of diverse DNA just yet.

Roberto’s lasagne based on his mom’s recipe.

If I had a nickel for every time a European employer says that a (non-white) candidate is “culturally too different for their company,” I’d probably be a millionaire by now. I wish it weren’t like that, and I would encourage every team to join us in overcoming these borders within us.

Team Jobbatical getting ready for team pic. Photo credits to our UX Designer Kirill Slavetski.

So what are we doing differently at Jobbatical that has encoded this diversity into our DNA?

Carlos in our very first (small and dusty) office in 2015. Thank you, Carlos, for you patience and your positive startup-attitude!

I believe it started when our first full-time employee travelled 10,000 kilometers to join our team. Carlos Miceli joined us from Argentina to help the company with business development. We had just launched Jobbatical, but were getting almost no traction. Carlos helped us get closer to figuring out why. From then on, each and every hiring campaign for the Jobbatical team has been global.

In our hiring, we look at people — their skills, their knowledge — rather than convenient locations. We believe that flying in a person from whichever part of the world costs less for the company than making just any hire that happens to be the closest (especially considering the ease and low-cost of travel these days). We still hire local people, if they happen to be better than anybody else in our global hiring campaign. We value culture-add over culture-fit, because we believe that only by challenging organizational status quo can we learn and move forward.

But first and foremost, the basis of building team Jobbatical is the understanding that we are all just people, one humankind.

A moment from Jobbatical team off-site. Photo credits to our UX Designer Kirill Slavetski.

Here are some globally minded companies looking for international team members:

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