Cassy Gardner, Banks Integration Group PostedWednesday, August 10, 2022 Q What trends and challenges are you seeing in industrial automation? A There is a huge demand for engineers, among all our peers, other system integrators, our clients within the automation team. They’re having a hard time signing engineers, filling those positions with the right type of talent and keeping those folks in their companies. I’m in the Life Science West Branch of E Tech Group. We’re in the Bay Area of California, which is the high-tech, Silicon Valley. We’re competing for talent with companies like Apple, Google. The way that folks find our industry or find our companies is typically word of mouth. They will find us through our network and our connections. And that’s contributing to a shortfall in our ability to meet our needs for talent. So that comes to why we need DE&I. Q What is DE&I? A DE&I stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. Another letter that’s being added in that space right now is also belonging. These are principles or values that are important to bringing in people of different perspectives and folks from backgrounds, ensuring that their perspective can be heard. And, a part of design and engineering. Diversity is having a wide array of perspectives and backgrounds. Equity, that’s about fairness. That’s making sure that we’re being thoughtful in our systems, in our policies, in our procedures and what we say, also being thoughtful and fair. Inclusion and belonging go together nicely, which is really making sure that, not only can people show up, but they also feel that they’re part of the team or part of the story. Just to give some examples, for myself, when I started as an intern, there was only a couple of women at my company. Now we’re getting closer and closer to 50 percent women. Women can be a traditionally marginalized group. Also, folks who are non-binary or transgender, people of color, folks with disabilities, LGBTQ, immigrants, folks who have been through foster care. There are so many different lived experiences; humans have this wide array of things that they can experience and come to the table with. Because they have those different experiences, they can bring a new lens to how we solve problems and how we address things. Those are some of the folks who might traditionally be underrepresented, especially in an engineering space or a technical space. Q What are some consequences of a lack of DE&I? A A good example is the crash test bias. There are some Consumer Reports articles and other resources that have investigated this including a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that female drivers or front passengers who are wearing their seatbelts are 17 percent more likely than a male to be killed when a crash takes place. That’s pretty serious because we’re talking about people’s lives. The University of Virginia also did some research, and they found that in a frontal crash, a female is 73 percent more likely to be injured than a male occupant. This is a place where not bringing in perspectives and thoughtfulness in the design about what differences we might see in the human bodies is resulting in death and injury for certain groups of people. Q How can promoting diversity, equity, inclusion help industrial automation specifically? A When you look at the bottom line for businesses, McKinsey Consulting Group, they’ve done studies looking into this. In their article “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters,” they looked into how diversity impacts the bottom line. They found some interesting correlations. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profits than companies in the fourth quartile. Up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014. In the case of ethnic and cultural diversity, top quartile companies outperform those in the fourth quartile by 36 percent of profitability. If you compare the companies who are very diverse in that top quartile to those who are very not diverse in the bottom quartile, you’re seeing a 36 percent difference in profitability. It’s exciting to see that type of correlation and to see the finances back up the kind of ethical beliefs or the values So, there’s the bottom line for business. But there’s also the – kind of the right thing to do and the inspiring thing that that can really bring. Industrial automation, we’re a part of manufacturing. If you look at the products that manufacturing makes and this industry contributes to, we’re impacting millions or billions of people’s lives. It’s a really exciting opportunity that if we can embody those values and bring that to our designs and how we approach problems, we can really have a big impact for a lot of people. Q What does a focus on DE&I look like? A This can take many different forms. Some companies are smaller mom-and-pop shops and will have a smaller depth of resources. Some companies are big. But what this really means is being thoughtful about your policies and taking time to look at who are you not accepting. Who are you missing out on in your team? Look at some data. What are your statistics for the folks that you employ or you hire? Are there any trends on how you compensate those people or are you noticing any different patterns in the types of support or needs that various groups may have? So, it could be just examining the outcomes of what you’re doing in terms of your statistics and your makeup. Then it begs the question, “What policies or procedures do you need to change? What do you need to do differently to reach out to others?” Some tactics that folks might consider is broadening an approach to how you recruit. Systems integrators rely on word of mouth like, “Hey, my buddy over here, I’m going to see if they want to come work for us.” That may not create the best opportunity or the best strategy around bringing in this diversity and allowing us to capitalize on those benefits. You might want to think about what some different universities are you could recruit from. Could you take some different majors? Do you even need people who have a college degree or is some type of field experience going to be just as valuable? It’s really about asking those questions and examining what assumptions we’re bringing and what policies we’re making and trying to move the needle to bring in a different set of folks. Another thing that a lot of companies are doing is providing employee resource groups. These groups are set up with the focus on traditionally marginalized groups, for example LGBTQ+. Employers may be able to dedicate resources to bring those folks together in a safer space and community and provide resources specific to their needs and listen to and hear from those groups. What are they missing? What can the company do differently to improve how these folks can contribute and can show up in the workplace? Q If people want to get involved, what should they do? A I will put a plugin for Y’allomation – it’s a nonprofit that I founded. We’re a group of volunteers offering Office Hours every Friday. We have at least one industry professional on Zoom just sitting there available every Friday for any student who has questions, like “How do I go through an interview. I have questions on my resume. I don’t know what LinkedIn is. How do I make a profile?” It’s a place for them to ask basic questions. We’re doing a rotation where all of these industry professionals can show up and share their advice and their experiences and help these students who need that industry touchpoint or need a boost, get that help that they are looking for as well as create a connection and a network with people in the industry. Our goal with doing these Office Hours is to help students directly as well as introduce some to the automation industry. They can start to evaluate, “Is this a space I would like to be in? Could I see myself in a career in industrial automation?” We can help them move from the college space to the industry space and help them with that transition. Y’allomation has partnered with MESA, which is a nonprofit that promotes getting folks from traditionally marginalized groups into STEM. We’ve partnered with them so that their students are coming to the Office Hours. We’re really leveraging that foundation they’ve created and pulling those students in to the Office Hours. Another exciting thing to share is that it has resulted in a hire for us. We found people who are a good fit through that. So, it can also be a recruiting effort. Check out www.yallomation.org. Q Explain the relationship between Banks Integration and E Tech Group. A Banks Integration is the West Coast Life Science branch of E Tech Group. E Tech Group acquired Banks a number of years ago. We are focused on the life sciences and providing systems integration services in the West Coast. Our clients are primarily pharmaceutical, biotech and life science companies. And we’re also doing some really cool work in a space called cellular agriculture or cultivated meat. Q What advice would you give to your younger self? A It’s really important to pay attention to how you are feeling at work. We don’t always necessarily take the time. We get caught up in the day-to-day grind. Really pay attention to when you feel excited, energized and you’re enjoying what you’re doing and see what trends you notice. Try and do your best to carve out more and more time of your space and your career to pursue those things where you feel curious, you feel excited. That’s going to help you feel successful and rewarded as you grow through your career.