getting a head start on diversity

We’re Getting a Head Start on Diversity

Amplitude is in the middle of a major growth spurt.

Since 2015, we’ve grown more than 4x in number of employees. (And we’re finally moving to a bigger space later this month.) Every single person here has a hand in recruiting the next generation of ‘Ampliteers’ who will help us take Amplitude to the next level. At the breakneck pace at which we’re growing, we simply haven’t had the time to formally establish an HR department or hire a recruiter.  

With all this happening, you might not think we’re at the ‘right’ stage to think about diversity. Maybe we should be focusing on getting the manpower we need to build a good product, securing our next round of funding, or generating more revenue. The fundamental presumption that motivates that mentality is that diversity is an afterthought; it’s “nice” to have when you have the time for it. But the fact is, workplace diversity needs to be a priority from day one. Diversity is an essential prerequisite for successfully accomplishing business goals.

At Amplitude, we’ve already witnessed the consequences of not addressing diversity. In our early days, we lost out on a stellar potential hire due to the lack of gender diversity on the engineering team. At that point, we realized we were already far too late in acknowledging the lack of diversity at Amplitude. Now we’re taking our first steps to address the problem.

The search for diversity best practices

Early in 2016, through a collective effort of employees across different levels, we started to put in place the infrastructure we need to address diversity at Amplitude. We assembled a team whose purpose is to spotlight diversity internally, identify our shortcomings, and develop a strategy to address those areas together as a company. Since we’re still in this stage of rapid growth, we have the power to set the tone and direction for who we want to be as a company. Addressing diversity properly and purposely is the most impactful ways we can shape our company culture.

When we initially created the diversity team, we were inspired by the zeitgeist of Silicon Valley and the general interest in ‘fixing’ the lack of diversity in the technology. Industry giants like Facebook, Google, and Pinterest were being transparent and proactive about the issue, so why not us? We began to educate ourselves about addressing diversity, both in and out of the technology industry, to uncover best practices and help us find our direction.

However, many of the strategies these larger companies were experimenting with required dedicated personnel, an extensive budget or simply were not applicable to a company at our stage. Despite our earnest effort and commitment to learn about and address workplace diversity, the resources and anecdotes we found online left us feeling as though perhaps it really was too early. It seemed as though we simply did not have the personnel or the expertise to make much of a difference.

Lack of workplace diversity impacts everyone

But we weren’t discouraged. When the diversity committee sat down and probed the situation at Amplitude, we discovered that even though we weren’t a giant company with thousands of employees, there are a lot of similarities between us and how the rest of Silicon Valley is approaching diversity.

In and outside of Amplitude, there is a tone underlying many diversity-focused conversations that it is only a problem for some people and it’s up to those people to dedicate time and energy to work on improving diversity in their respective workplaces.

This became extremely clear when members of our team attended a diversity workshop in San Francisco. The overwhelming majority of the people who attended that workshop were people who are from traditionally underrepresented groups. Even at Amplitude, when we first invited all of our employees to join the diversity team, the only male in the room at our first meeting was our CEO, and there was no one who was not from a racial minority group.

This showed us as a part of our efforts, we needed to address why diversity is important for every employee at Amplitude. Diversity of thought helps to build better products, better teams and ultimately, better companies. That variance in perspective is a result of having a diverse group of employees. It’s extremely difficult to know if we’re implementing the ‘best idea’ when everyone thinks similarly and agrees with everyone else. Getting to the best idea often means iterating through rounds of different ideas proposed and challenged by different people. Creating an environment where people are celebrated and valued for their differences not only means we’ll hear more of these ideas, it also means employees will want to stay at the company for longer if their differences are respected and their voices heard.

We need to ensure that every employee at Amplitude realizes the value of diversity and how it impacts our company.

Starting out by looking inward

Instead of immediately focusing on improving numbers and recruitment strategies, we’re starting to look internally and evaluate ourselves first. As we frequently say to our customers, user acquisition without retention and engagement means nothing. Hiring specific individuals to increase the diversity of your workplace is meaningless if the environment you’ve created can’t retain them.

We’re beginning with internal discussion, focusing on diversity education and understanding at the company level so that we can create a more supportive, empathetic and inclusive workplace. We want to cultivate an environment in which our employees feel empowered to share their views and concerns and feel like they’re being heard. As we improve our company culture to be more supportive and inclusive, we will better retain our employees and attract new ones.

The first few steps toward diversity at Amplitude

Our strategy to improve workplace diversity is very much a work in progress and those of us in the diversity committee have a lot to learn ourselves. To begin, we put a few things in place:

  1. We’ve started by having weekly syncs and stand-up meetings for our diversity team with individuals owning specific initiatives so that we are accountable for our progress.
  2. We conducted an initial survey with all of our employees to gather demographic data as well as try to measure specific aspects of our culture.
  3. We are researching companies who can come onsite to do a training with a focus on unconscious bias, stereotype threat, and microaggressions.
  4. We are planning on having separate diversity and inclusion training for our leadership team and the rest of the company. As a follow-up to training, we’re beginning to plan a diversity-themed retreat for the entire company.
  5. We’ve recently formalized our promotion criteria and process and are actively working to implement a similar structure to our hiring process to reduce the impact bias has on evaluating our employees and their progression.

What’s next?

These are all important steps we’re taking, but they’re just the beginning. We’re aware we have a lot to improve upon as a company and that the path toward a more inclusive workplace may not always be clear. The purpose of our diversity team is to identify those areas for growth and to develop a method to get our company to a better state.

We have already started to set up conversations with other companies with strong diversity initiatives to develop our own best practices for creating an inclusive workplace. And as we go through this process, we’re going to be as open and transparent as possible to help other companies shape their strategies as well.

We’ll be sharing our journey as we progress and would greatly benefit from any advice or feedback on our approach. We’re going to make mistakes, but it’s better than waiting until we’ve grown and the problem has gotten so large that our culture cannot be corrected. It’s never too early to think about diversity.