Series Two, Episode Six: Allies, Role Models and Champions of Change

Posted on April 18, 2018

Robert McKillop, Global Head of Product at Aberdeen Standard Investments, and Ruben Kostucki, COO at Makers Academy, join host Julia Streets to discuss the importance of nurturing and supporting middle management as they endeavour to embrace change, how to find and empower new tech talent from ages 16 to 60+ and why we need change more than ever before.

Robert McKillop

Robert Joined Standard Life Investments as a Japanese portfolio manager, in 1997 from Scottish Amicable Investment Managers. In 2002 he was promoted to the position of Head of Japanese Equities. In 2008 Robert moved to the Global Equities desk as Head of EAFE Funds. Following almost three years in that position Robert joined the Global Client Group management team in 2010 as Global Head of Product.

You can follow Standard Life Aberdeen on Twitter @SLA_plc.

Ruben Kostucki

Ruben is COO at Makers Academy, European’s leading software engineering bootcamp. He’s in charge of strategic growth so the organisation can train more inclusive and diverse learners, whilst helping many more companies solve their talent needs. Prior to Makers, Ruben started and failed to launch a few startups, was part of the first Entrepreneur First cohort, Entrepreneur in Residence at Forward Labs and worked for a short time with BlaBlaCar.

You can follow Ruben on Twitter @rubenkostucki.

 

Series Two, Episode Six Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about diversity and inclusion in financial services. In each episode we seek to shine a light on successful progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer practical ideas to help drive change. Throughout the series, time and again our guests place considerable value on the contribution of allies, role models, and champions of change. Today we are joined by two such champions. Robert McKillop from Aberdeen Standard Investments and Ruben Kostucki from The Makers Academy.

Robert McKillop is the global head of product at the newly-formed Aberdeen Standard Investments where he is a member of the Global Client Group management team. He has enjoyed 20+ years in global investment management having served as Japanese portfolio manager and a senior executive on the global equities desk. As a senior executive, Robert embraces the value of diversity championship, and last year he was a finalist at the Champion for Women category at the prestigious Women in Banking and Finance Awards. Robert, welcome.

Robert: Good morning, Julia.

Julia: Ruben Kostucki is the Chief Operating Officer of Makers Academy, which he tells me is Europe’s largest software engineering bootcamp. In his career, Ruben has started a number of early stage enterprises. He was part of the inaugural Entrepreneur First cohort, and was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Forward Labs. Ruben is responsible for the Academy’s growth strategy with a clear ambition to train an evermore inclusive and diverse range of students, all as a means of helping companies fill the widening skills gap. Ruben, welcome and thank you for joining us.

Ruben: Thank you very much.

Julia: At the start of each show, we invite each guest to tell us a bit about what they’re up to. So, Robert, let me start with you.

Robert: Thank you, Julia. As global head of product I sit on our Global Asset Management Executive, so I have some collective responsibility for our diversity and inclusion agenda. I am also specifically one of the corporate sponsors of our programme. However, just as excitingly for me, in my day job as global head of product, I’m responsible for the development and maintenance for all our investment products and solutions for our clients around the world. So innovation is a key part of my day job and I strongly believe that the bedrock of good innovation is intellectual diversity. So alongside my roles at corporate advocate and a sponsor for our D&I program I have a more direct interest in that whole agenda.

Julia: Fantastic. Thank you very much, Robert. And Ruben, we talk about innovation. I imagine that’s at the heart of everything you think about. What are you focused on?

Ruben: First of all, I’m not an expert at diversity, inclusivity, intersectionality, unconscious biases or any of these things. What I am is somebody who runs an organisation that actually changes the face of technology. When we set out Makers Academy it was to just basically solve the digital skills gap. There’s a problem in education and the numbers we’ll talk about later, in education are terrible, definitely in computer science when it comes to the gender gap, but recruitment and employment is also badly done. So, over time, even though it wasn’t our purpose, diversity and inclusivity has become key to what we do because it’s not enough to just train people. The problem is, and again we’ll cover it later on hopefully, is that technology is at the core of everything that we’re going to be using in the future. If the workforce in the technology sector isn’t as representative of society then we really risk creating a widening gap in everything in society. And that’s where artificial intelligence comes in, et cetera, et cetera.

So, I come from the point of view of someone who’s actually creating an organisation that is training people and solving that gap.

Julia: So, let’s pick up on that straight away. Let’s get straight into that because I think that is very important. Where do you focus most when you start out trying to think about the widening gap that firms are looking at, and where you look at the skills gap that schools and institutions start from? Where do you begin?

Ruben: We begin by solving this problem realising it’s not a problem of education or a problem of recruitment employment – it’s both. And the problem is that in the past, and until Makers Academy, it’s always been you’re an education company, a university, and your job is to educate. Or you’re recruitment company or you’re in employment, and your job is to acquire this talent. There’s no link between the two. So what we did at the beginning of Makers Academy, and since the start, is by integrating employment and education because the two things need to fit hand in hand. Once you understand what the market needs and you can also influence how the market’s acquire talent you can also find that talent and train it accordingly.

The way we look at diversity and inclusivity first of all is from the angle of inclusivity. Actually, that’s the key for us, because diversity is only the start. It’s great to have diversity, but the problem is, and we see it everywhere, is that it gets very qualitative when you go about diversity – it’s gender, it’s race, et cetera. When you go about inclusivity, it’s about creating systems and systemic change where as many unconscious biases become conscious and get removed, so that the process of operating not as a means to filter out by default or some random arbitrary measures, but letting people themselves select in or select out.

This is how we do our recruitment process for candidates, for example. We don’t ask for CVs, we don’t ask for background, whether they’ve been to school, whether they’ve done maths or anything like that. We couldn’t care less. What we’ve done is create an attraction and selection person for the candidate that is as inclusive as possible. We basically give them material to learn. We don’t care where they come from. It does select, we all need to select, but it selects out by their default, not ours. So, if they don’t want to do the work, can’t be bothered, don’t feel passionate enough about it, fine. They’ve decided they don’t want to do it. But other than that, we have not set any arbitrary requirements to getting them through the course.

In standard education, you’ll say you have to have finished A levels with certain As, and A stars and Bs, and in employment most financial firms in Canary Wharf will say, “You need to have X number of years experience from these Ivy League universities, et cetera.” For us, we see diversity and inclusivity from the angle of inclusivity.

Robert: Yeah, and I think it’s really encouraging to see some major companies now say we might not need a degree in the future and start to hire purely based on what people bring to table. I think there is another challenge for my own company, which is almost 200 years old, and there’s a challenge of conversion of that talent as well. So, I couldn’t agree more with what Ruben has been saying about a different attitude to education and recruitment, but it’s then that conversion so that we get all the different diverse groups at the top table. But crucially again what I would agree with it’s about inclusiveness. There’s no point in having people at the top table and they’re not taking in that wonderful intellectual diversity that you get that drives better financial results and better innovation. There’s no point in having it around the table if you’re not going to use it.

Julia: And to the point about conversion, can you just expand a bit more on that?

Robert: I think when most big companies look at their succession pools, they’re probably quite satisfied with the diversity of the pool. It’s how they convert that to people at the top table that I think is really key. And I think that’s where my role latterly as a champion, that somebody else bestowed upon me, not myself, I see myself as a champion of fairness. I’m not overly altruistic. It’s about being fair. I want to build a high performing team. I want to ask to be a very innovative asset manager. To do that I need diverse skill sets and I need those diverse skill sets to be playing. Yeah, trying to mentor and coach people through and help them break through that perceived glass ceiling and start to convert the great talent that many big companies have into top level talent I think is key. I think that’s they bit where the financial industry in particular is slow and I think that’s a little bit where the log jam is.

Julia: They’re two very different worlds, but they’re two worlds that must combine if we want to compete both as an institution but also as a financial centre. Ruben, when you look at skills that are coming through into your academy, do you look at how you take them out on that journey? Because part of it’s around skills that you acquire and skills you learn, but then part of it’s how do you fit in with organisations that are in some cases hundreds of years old. Can you shed some light on how you make your students fit for purpose in the financial services world?

Ruben: First of all, what we do is, and literally the tag line for the course, is learning how to learn. Actually, the future skills and again the problem with the education system is it’s about acquiring a specific skill set, but it’s not. It should be about ability to acquire any new skill set. And in the world of software engineering the problem is the world changes so fast that there is no point in training in a specific skill because you’ll be good today, you’ll be bad tomorrow. So, the entire purpose of the course is around learning how to learn.

When we speak to companies and when they hire and work with our engineer effectively what they realise is you have people that you can drop problems and they’ll solve it, and that’s all that matters, because as a software engineer that’s what you spend your time doing. Obviously, because of the business model and how we operate, we make our revenue solely from the employers, whether they’re through the apprenticeship levy or them taking on our engineers on a day rate for a period of time.

Because of this model that means we’re highly incentivised to get the developer and students ready for the job market because if we’re not, then the employers are not going to pay us. Again a problem with the education system is that they’re not. They couldn’t care less, just the stats, but that’s not enough. The business model here means that we have to. So, we have to listen to the employers, but the employers will tell us, “I want X.” And when you say, “What do you mean by X? Would do you want a ruby engineer?” You actually realise that what people want is a great problem solver, somebody that can learn and grow, and that when you invest your time and energy on, they actually grow up on your scale. It’s about also being able to listen, but also challenge what employers want.

Julia: Robert?

Robert: I’m sorry, I’m just trying to contain my excitement! I think that ‘learn to learn’ mantra is so important because one of the problems I see in the financial industry is that we recruit functional experts, we develop functional experts, and the best of those functional experts, based on their performance, is made leader of the team. I think that rarely they are the best leader. Usually in the financial sector they’ve been an alpha male, and they drive their team very much on short term performance and they are … I read the wonderful phrase ‘the frozen middle’. This layer of middle management are very, very good functional experts – the best salesmen, the best portfolio manager, the best deal maker in investment banking. They are not best placed, and sometimes lack confidence in their leadership skills to actually break through to allow all of that diverse talent to shine. So, I really think this whole thing about learning to learning and developing decision makers … I hate the phrase VUCA, but that is the type of environment we’re in at the moment, and having a bit more flexible people who develop people more holistically, I think, is exactly what the financial industry needs. And it’s what one our problems is.

Julia: For the benefits of the listeners who may not have heard that expression before, just explain what you mean by VUCA.

Robert: Sure. It comes from the military world and stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Julia: This is something that comes up time and time again in our podcasts, which is people talk about the frozen middle, the sticky middle, the permafrost I’ve heard it called. And it takes some courage actually for that middle management layer who have been taught and given leadership techniques in a certain way, to have the courage to say, “I’m going to embrace change, and I’m going to think about things very differently. So, therefore I need to think about how hire differently, I need to think about how I scope projects differently. I need to think about how I lead my organisation differently.” I’d really be keen to explore of that middle management layer where do you see that lightning rod moment when somebody wakes up and goes, “I can change, and it’s not as scary as I think it is.” Have you got some good examples of where somebody’s come from an institutionalised mindset and has really seen the potential and embraced change?

Ruben: At Makers Academy we’ve worked with dozens of very large corporates, including the financial sector. And a specific example, which I think again specific to the tech sector, but I think can be extrapolated to your question. We go into a company and we say, okay, understand their hiring needs and then we talk about recruitment processes. And they say, “Well, that’s what we do.” It’s like, okay. And they’ll tell us, for example, that they use an online coding test that is very time bound. And then we ask them questions. We say, “But why?” “Oh, because we’ve always done so.” “Okay, but you told us before that you were looking for X, Y, and Z, when you were hiring somebody, and part of the description was you want people to write quality software, but you’re asking people to do a test based on the time bound element. That doesn’t represent the work environment you have.”

So, that, what you call middle management, is able to change when you go through the process of asking the right questions through a consultative approach, being able to explain to them “this is what you said to me that you wanted and need, but you have a tech and recruitment process that is not adapted to what you need”. And slowly they realise that change needs to happen.

Then we give a lot of examples. There’s a famous Harvard Business Review report that says that women are way less likely to apply to jobs if they don’t fit 100% of the requirements, while for men it’s quite different. So, we see job descriptions for software engineers all the time stating exactly the number of years experience, et cetera. When we show them this review and we tell them you’re not getting any women in your tech team, this may be one of the reasons, and suddenly you light that fire in them to realise that it’s a journey to change, and this was just step one.

Julia: I really like that whole point about it is a journey to change and being open minded enough. Robert, from a corporate perspective, again this central question about how the middle management are stepping on that journey to change. Anything you see?

Robert: I’ve seen some good examples. I think the one thing as they go through their own personal journey from excellent functional leader to seeing the light that there’s a new way to lead their team, and that they can benefit, and their team can benefit from your more holistic assessment of their talent I guess the biggest feeling they go through is one of uncomfortableness, if that’s a word. One of the best functional leaders I’ve ever had in my team went through a period about 18 months to two years ago feeling incredibly uncertain when I challenged him to start to use coaching as a style of leadership and start to think more deeply about his talent. He was incredibly uncomfortable initially, came to the review at the end of the year and said, “I felt incredibly uncomfortable, but oh my God, now I love this stuff.” And he’s become so passionate about it and he does it in his own way. It was very, very key because initially he was trying to emulate people he saw around him and you’ve got to lead and break out of that permafrost, I think, doing things in your own way. He’s found a little niche for himself now and he’s wonderful, but there are a lot of other examples I think where it feels a little bit more like banging your head against brick wall where people don’t get it.

Julia: This is where I think the whole point about really being a champion for change. Partly around diversity and inclusion, which is how we started the discussion here, but actually about championing those who are brave enough to take that step and get on that journey. Is that individual remunerated, or encouraged, or just needs praise and heralded, for having taken that journey and being uncomfortable, and come out the other side? Is that something that’s being showcased?

Robert: Yeah. For my whole leadership team, we put in place a remuneration structure that reflected this new change in leadership style. But it was definitely the carrot that got him there, not the stick. I just thought it was fascinating to watch. I do think you’re right though, Julia, the top-down vision that we get from most chief executives is very strong, but that needs to be taken further and further down and champions need to be created. And it is quite uncomfortable. I, in early 2017, put together a day for some of our female talent in my team. I allowed them to create the agenda so it wasn’t messed with by a man, and they thoroughly enjoyed it. But actually, it was made quite difficult for me to do that quite often by other either males who felt threatened, or females who thought why am I not part of that, or is that special treatment, is that remedial? It was nothing like that, but it was actually quite difficult, and was quite a tough period for me as well.

Julia: And taking others on that journey as well. You talk about other senior male executives who are perhaps looking from the outside in and thinking well, why should we, and why should they have a day? Why should we change? Those are understandable emotional responses to having had a 20 year career in a 200 year organisation, if you like.

Has there been anything as you’ve engaged with them that by bringing them on the journey, they’ve begun to realise that actually it’s not as scary as you might think?

Robert: I think the very senior executives in the company, they see the financial benefits, they see the benefits for the corporate image, and they know this is part being a socially responsible company. So, I guess, I hate to say it, Julia, we’re back to that frozen middle again, which is the area that I really think we need to focus on.

Julia: One of the things that I’m really interested in exploring is how organisations can learn from young talent coming in. There’s a very interesting dynamic that happens when young talent that have been briefed in a different way, and to solve a challenge that’s been scoped in a different way, walk into a financial institution. There’s a lot to bring, and there’s also a lot to learn. I’m very interested in any colour around how organisations that need to change are listening and engaging with young talent coming through, and where young talent coming through is being challenged themselves about the corporate world.

Ruben: First of all, I pick on word that you used, which is young. And I think that’s also a form of bias we have with talent coming into the market – that they’re young. It’s okay, we all have it. It’s the same for the apprenticeship. We’ve become an apprenticeship provider, and everybody thinks of an apprentice as somebody who 18 to 24, but that’s wrong. You can be 45, you can be 50, and you can come from all walks of life. So, first of all, we see talent as just talent. We don’t see them as young or old. The average age on the course is about 28. We’ve got 18 to literally 62.

When they come into an organisation they may be young in age, they’re inexperienced software engineers. So, they’re junior talent in terms of experience, but they may be super experienced in life. You have mothers, you have people who were crane drivers, as well as people who were in the banking world coming back to the banking world, but as software engineers. So, on that talent arriving to the workforce, it’s all about creating that change. But what I’ve seen is that change can only happen and exist if literally the CEO, the equivalent in technology, the CIO, or the CTO, have given that order or guidance and vision. I’ve seen so many examples, and in the banking world, where actually in the middle section there was a leader, somebody at level that wanted change to happen, but because they don’t have the support from the upper management actually felt trapped. Because the problem is that large organisations, like the big banks in Canary Wharf, don’t change overnight. If they don’t have the vision of change from the top, as well as from the bottom, it won’t work.

So, the best way we like to work with organisations is when we’ve met literally the top, number one, number two in those large banking firms, and we bring in change at the bottom. That’s how you create change because you put pressure from the top and pressure from the bottom. That middle management changes because they’re realising that the new talent coming in is already part of that change, and the management at the top says, “Well, it’s got to change.”

Julia: And to challenge some of those preexisting mentalities as I have just expressed, that people who walk through the door aren’t necessarily all millennials. They’re walking through the door with these other skills and other experiences as well, which is incredibly valid. Are you finding people in the later stage of their careers return … I was thinking about breaking that down into there’s obviously women returners, but there are other people who recognise that their skills need to be developed further, or are thinking about a change in career.  I’m very interested in exploring, or seeing some of your perspectives around different stages of life, if you like.

Ruben: So, absolutely. We’ve literally seen from 18 to 62. People like Simon who didn’t finish school, was a paint salesman in Lewisham, aged 23, couldn’t do the course. We sponsored him and two years later he’s a tech lead at The Financial Times. He doubled his salary in about three months time. As well as somebody who had kids, Margot. She had kids, she had a life. She was in the banking sector actually, then had a family, and later on in her life, probably our her 40s and 50s decided well, my kids are old enough now I can do something else in my life. She joined the course, and she’s a successful software engineer back on her career that she started, again at the bottom, but within two to three years is already at the mid-level direction.

What’s interesting and I think the last point I want to share here is they’re only an apprenticeship levy. The apprenticeship levy came in, and that’s very relevant to the corporate sector, and definitely to the financial sector amongst the largest levy payers in the country. Today we are working as an apprenticeship provider with the large financial institutions to retrain their internal staff. So, they’re paying this levy and they’re saying, “Well, I’ve got this pot of money, how can I use it?” So we’re having conversations with them by saying, “Well an apprentice doesn’t have to be an 18 to 24 year-old. You have plenty of incredible talent in your organisation. Send them to us and we’ll retrain them for you, which means when they come back they come back fresh and with new skills. They may be later in their careers, but suddenly you re-energise them and relaunch their career into something new.

Robert: I think Ruben’s point about creating pressure from the bottom up is also key. And that can sometimes be the toughest thing to do. We did an exercise just prior to the merger. We counted, and we looked at my team. So, my global product team in Standard Life Investments was 45% female, and we did focus very much on gender. My leadership team, however, was only 15% female and 100% based in the U.K., so not probably what you’d expect or reflective of a modern global financial institution. We did the exercise of winding the clock forward and saying who’s going to be running this team in seven years time? Who could lead it? That future leadership team was 45% female, so back in line with the population of the team over all, and 45% non-U.K. based. So, much more reflective of where we wanted to be. We were going to set that group up as a shadow leadership group. We would give them the same challenges as the leadership team faced, so the same strategic challenges, the same talent strategy challenges. They would be there as a devil’s advocate, a challenger, and just, I guess, a different perspective against the leadership team.

We then went through a massive corporate merger, which probably stopped that for a few months, but just last month we ran an offsite for my new leadership team, and we ran this group that we inventively called ‘The Others’, in the same hotel, with the same agenda, exactly the same format as the leadership team. We got some fantastic ideas that us older, hate to say it, older guys in the leadership team probably would not have come up with by ourselves. So, that is starting to increase the pressure, and I guess allowing those future leaders of the team to start to build their legacy before they even get the keys to the castle.

Julia: That’s a perfect moment to turn to Cynthia and to Robert who have looking out for industry research to support the discussion.

Robert PF: When it comes to harnessing talent in financial institutions, it’s not just the potential employees that need to create a good impression. Here are some comments from unimpressed candidates following their interviews at financial institutions recently published by recruitment firm TOM.

Cynthia: “The interviewers were 20 minute late.” “Interviewer A couldn’t make it, so someone else came to meet me.” “An urgent meeting came up, so they had to postpone my meeting, but I wasn’t told until I arrived.” “Something urgent came up and the interviewer had to leave early.”

Robert PF: According to the blog’s author, the best way to secure top talent is to showcase the best and brightest throughout the whole of the recruitment process.

Cynthia: Transitioning is one of the most private things a person will ever need to do in public. The Acas report, supporting trans employees in the workplace, provides evidence suggesting that trans staff with high educational attainment and extensive labour market experience have been turned down for jobs after face-to-face interviews or had offers withdrawn after disclosing their intention to transition.

Robert PF: 16% of trans respondents had chosen not to apply for work because they anticipated bullying and negative treatment. 9% did not provide references for reasons related to their gender identity.

Julia: Thank you, Cynthia. Thank you, Robert. And the links and references to the research can be found on our website, www.DiverCityPodcast.com where you can also sign up for early notifications of future episodes. Please do follow us on Twitter @DiverCityPod. And you can find us on BrightTalk and all good podcast channels. If you’ve enjoyed the show, we’d really appreciate a rating. It all helps promote the episodes.

Ruben, Robert, let me come back to our discussion. I was very interested in this whole thing about driving change, particularly around getting through the middle management layer and of course training programs galore around thinking about diversity, thinking about unconscious bias. Do you think that’s effective?

Ruben: I’m not sure it’s the most effective, or the only thing that needs to be done, but it’s one part of the key to the puzzle, so to speak. Having trained some of our clients with someone called CN Lester, a U.K. leading transgender activist and the authors of a book called Trans Like Me. They ran a workshop or training for a large client of ours around unconscious biases through the lens of transgender issues in technology. The useful part here was to use the lens of transgender to realise how much you don’t know about a community or world that you may not have come across. And people left the meeting not with a solution, but realising that there were so many more questions to be asked. And it’s a lens. So, most people have never met or come across transgender people, so they don’t realise what it entails, what it means. Part of the process that CN led the middle management of the client to figure out is to realise A, what you don’t know, it’s the classical you don’t know what you do know, be aware of that; and B, where do you get your information?

And I think that unconscious biases exists, always will do. But the process to change is to realise what can you do about them? How can you uncover them? What can you learn about those biases? In technology, and through the lens of transgender, we realise through the journey that yes, there are a lot of things that need to change. I’ll give you a very specific example.

I discovered an island personally through this process. A lot of transgender people need to go through some forms of surgery. This mean that they can have gaps in their work history. Now, most firms in the financial sector will not treat that well. Any person who has gaps in their CVs and their work history is seen very badly, but sometimes for the wrong reasons. That is already a bias. There may be a fairly good reason as to why they’re doing it, but by not being able to dig in further you realise that you ostracise an entire community of people that would be excellent for your work, but because of the nature of some arbitrary measures simply can’t apply.

Julia: That ties in very neatly with a guest we had on our previous episode called Samantha Jane Nelson, who is transgender. She was telling us a very similar story about corporates needs to look at some of their corporate policies and think very differently about them. I think that’s a really good, shining example of where a lot of that bias naturally, and almost understandably, has come from historically, but the world has shifted. People need to look at the world through a very different lens. Which I think when you come down to, again, this topic about championing change and being a champion within a corporate environment, clearly part of that is about leadership, part of that’s around being very self aware in that journey for change.

Robert, I keep coming back to why this matters. As a leader within an organisation, very senior executive recognised as a champion what do you tell your subordinate middle management leaders and layers to think about? And why do you think this matters?

Robert: I think if we start with the output, there’s so much research out there that says companies have diverse leadership teams that embrace empower diversity, I think again the empowering is very important,  have better financial results. Their return on equity is higher. Their profitability is higher, and whilst the levels may vary from country to country they trend is really clear. So, this works. I think starting by educating on the output. Again, I also think the carrot of the output works better than the stick of the quota.

So, I think this is a business imperative. We have to get it right, So, the first thing, I’m trying to build a high performing team in a newly merged company. What a great opportunity to take stock of the talent you’ve got and the way that you manage and develop that talent. And I think you’re right. So, big corporates take training on unconscious bias incredibly seriously and that’s about building the self awareness. I don’t see myself as the champion by any means. I see myself as a coach of people, and to be a coach you need to be passionate, I always think, about two things – you’ve got to be passionate about teaching and developing people, but you’ve got to be passionate about those people themselves. To be passionate about them you really have to understand them, and you have to take time to speak to them. This is not a transaction, it’s a strategic partnership where you’re trying to plot a future.

But I think we do have to be able accept more flexible working practices. Who wants to miss out on that star returnee from the maternity because of some unconscious bias? She may only work four days a week. One of the best leaders in my team only works four days a week. My biggest challenge is in making her not trying to work five days a week! So, I really think I’m a coach and not a champion, and the more that we can get leaders to accept that when you put your hand up for a leadership role, you are a coach and you’re there to develop your people and help them reach their potential, regardless of their background.

Julia: And if you think about the industry as a whole and where we are economically at this moment as we sit here recording the first quarter of 2018, thinking about what the world’s going to look like in perhaps a years time, obviously with Brexit, and I don’t want to ask you to comment on Brexit, I don’t think that would be appropriate, but there are shifting dynamics happening around us.

Robert: I think that’s an absolutely fantastic point, Julia. It’s so well proven that at a micro economic level, so a corporate level, diversity drives better results. As you’ve pointed out the U.K. economy is stuck in a low productivity rut at the moment. Surely one way to improve that is if at micro level, being more diverse drives higher return on equity, at a macroeconomic level, embracing diversity should cause that productivity to head north. So, I think this is definitely a micro economic issue. You could argue is a macroeconomic issue as well.

Julia: Robert, Ruben, thank you both so much for joining us. I’m enormously hopeful as we conclude the show today thinking about new models of skill development and look at the world in the way the world is changing. I’m enormously positive that with champions such as yourselves the world will continue to change. Thank you both so much for joining us.

Ruben: Thank you.

Robert: Thank you.

Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about guests on this week’s show on our website, DiverCityPodcast.com. Whilst you’re there you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. To be sure of catching all our future podcasts subscribe to our feed in BrightTalk, iTunes, or your favourite podcast app. If you’ve enjoyed this episode of DiverCity Podcast remember to give us a rating or review. It’s all to help promote the show to a wider audience.

Finally, our Twitter handle is @DiverCityPod. Thanks for listening.