“If you can create a diverse cornucopia of talent on your team, you can gain all of the goodness from the experiences that all of those people bring to the table through inclusion.” – Ted Colbert
In this episode, I interviewed Theodore (Ted) Colbert III, Executive Vice President of The Boeing Company and President and Chief Executive Officer of Boeing Global Services and we talked about diversity in engineering, how diversity can benefit an engineering firm, and how engineers can help promote diversity through mentorship. Ted also received the 2022 Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA), on Saturday, February 19th in Washington D.C.
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Diversity in Engineering:
- Fit matters. Many people try to force themselves into a particular role or company even though they are not a good fit. Experiment early in your career to find out what you do and do not enjoy. Trying to find your strengths in others is a fool’s errand. Listen to yourself. You know what you like and what drives you. Those are the things that match your skills and talents. Spend time to further develop them. Everything is not forever, and you must step up and make changes sometimes.
- Diversity, equity and inclusion is a force multiplier for performance. Companies that have more diversity outperform those that do not. Those with higher gender diversity and good policies and practices have lower staff turnover and more inclusive workforces that are likely to have better job satisfaction and commitment to the company. When you create an environment that is diverse and inclusive, it creates the conditions to have a safe place for people to bring their entire selves with them to work every day and contribute.
- When solving problems, you must use all the tools that you have. The more diverse team that you have, the higher the probability will be that you take advantage of all those tools and make great decisions.
- Boeing has a three-prong plan to root out racism, advance progress on key measures of equity inclusion, and strengthen the company’s investments to diversify suppliers around the world. It focuses on advancing equity inclusion for all, confronting racism, and building support coalition among the communities and suppliers.
- Engineers can help to promote diversity through mentoring diverse interns and in teaching them how to interact in a corporate environment, how to be engineers, how to solve problems, how to ask for help, and how to take risks and be innovative.
- The Black Engineer of the Year Award has been awarded to around 30 people and provides great recognition for the work they have done. These people overcame adversity in some way, they work hard on demonstrative results, and gave back to their communities. It shows that working hard at work and giving back to the communities does mean something and is of value to the communities. The award is there to inspire unrepresented young talent, people of color, and women to continue working in this field.
- A leader in empathy is the first-core value. Empathy is a pathway to taking advantage of the diversity of your team. As a leader, you are like a conductor in an orchestra. It is your job to take the diversity of your team and bring it together to create harmony and something that is of value to the business and the customers. You must empower the orchestra by giving them space to learn, experiment, make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, and hold them accountable. You must be clear on your expectations of the people who work with, and around you.
- Mentors are important in any engineer’s career. It is an opportunity to have a bilateral relationship that is purposeful. A mentor will stretch you beyond what you think you can do. They give feedback that is candid, constructive, and helpful. They put you in the middle of tough situations and help you to grow within them to make you a better leader in the future.
- Great engineering is when people know how to take everything that they have learned and apply them to tough problems. Great leadership knows how to take advantage of the knowledge and skills that their diverse team brings to the table. Keep all your team members included and drive them to be empowered to get work done. Keep your team accountable when they make mistakes but encourage them to learn and move forward.
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