Growing our Engineering Team in Denver: Diversity begets Diversity

Beautiful Downtown Denver

About a year ago, we published the results and shared some learnings from a concerted effort to build a more diverse and inclusive engineering team at Gusto. More recently, we’re proud to share that we have 50/50 gender balance in our incoming cohort of 2017 recent college graduate software engineers.

We’re proud of how far we’ve come, but we also know we – and the industry at large – have much more to do to build a truly diverse and inclusive environment.

I was reminded of this recently when I asked one of our female engineers if she would consider doing a three-month stint working in our small-but-growing Denver engineering office. She shared with me that she was really excited about the opportunity. However, she also shared that her excitement was somewhat dampened by the fact that she would be working in an engineering team that is less diverse than the one that we have in San Francisco. If, however, she were able to pair up with another woman on the team to do the three-month stint, that would be a pretty exciting adventure to her.

Her comments made me realize an important dynamic: Diversity begets diversity. If you already have a diverse engineering team, this makes working for your company more attractive to those with different backgrounds, leading to a virtuous cycle of building a diverse engineering team.

The inverse is true as well. A lack of diversity in your team makes it less attractive for someone from an underrepresented group to join your company. The story I shared is a real-world example of diversity debt. The later you start, the more difficult it is to build a diverse team.

Our Denver engineering team is new, and we’re really excited to prioritize building a diverse and inclusive team from the start. That’s why, as we ramp up our Denver presence, we’re starting as early as possible to form a diverse team.

Here are some concrete things we're doing as we build our small but fast-growing Denver engineering team:

  • We’re sending two women from our SF engineering team to Denver for three months. In addition to working with Denver engineers to help share knowledge and writing code to continue to build the Gusto product, they’ll also help seed our culture and recruit a diverse team.

  • Our recruiting team is sourcing only female engineers. Currently, the vast majority of our inbound applicants are men, so we are confident this is the right approach.

  • We’ve created an engineering apprenticeship program in Denver where we’ll hire and mentor two junior software engineers, one each from an underrepresented gender and ethnic group. Why are we doing this? Gender diversity is not the only thing we think about. We’re certain there are lots of junior engineers from underrepresented groups who have a lot of potential, but may not come from traditional software development backgrounds. We’ll be looking at people who are graduating from coding bootcamps like Galvanize, Turing, and General Assembly.

We believe that starting early is important to forming a diverse and inclusive engineering team. For new tech companies, or established companies looking to start an engineering team in a new location, I’d encourage you to make diversity and inclusion a priority from the start. We certainly hope our efforts will attract people with all kinds of backgrounds.