Guy Armitage, CEO at Zealous, was kind enough to answer some of our questions ahead of the first full bodied conference dedicated to diversity in the technology sector.
If you could have dinner with anyone who would it be?
It’s a hard one! I would have to pick between Elon Musk and John Lasseter—Elon for his ability to think one step beyond modern expectations, mobilise and inspire other to pursue things that society thinks are impossible, and John for his ability to continuously build stories and empathy with his audiences, even when his main characters are silent (Wall-E).
What gets you out of bed in the mornings?
As an entrepreneur, every day is different. Not all good, nor all exciting, but they challenge me as a person to grow and reassess my assumptions of the world and who I am. Experiencing something different every day and helping to shape the world into a place I would like to live in is better than any alarm clock.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the tech industry?
Technology is an incredible medium to create and challenge the status quo—not only can you build anything you want with it (even humans soon, which will lead to even more complex debates on diversity), but you have the power to distribute it—relatively cheaply—around the world.
Who is your inspiration?
My family members are a constant source of inspiration (and entertainment, but don’t tell them that!). I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them. As one of many examples, my late Swiss grandmother lost her mother, daughter, and husband one after another and raised two children alone after the war. She had an incredibly challenging life, yet she was one of the most jovial people I’ve had the honour to meet. She taught me that you can’t afford to buy cheap—conventional wisdom we’ve lost in this day and age. We unfortunately no longer make the most of our elders’ experiences.
What are the biggest challenges the tech sector face in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce?
I probably don’t need to say that diversity is a massively complex issue (if you are reading this you know that already). It’s a mix of culture, politics, policy, and the way our brains work. For the tech sector in particular, we need to ensure that the talent entering the workforce is nurtured and scaled to include diversity. This means giving everyone, regardless of where they stand within society, fair access to the education they want. Unfortunately, this also depends on removing outdated stereotypes from society so that children from a very young age realise that they can make their own choices, and that they have access to it (role models are important here).
What is your vision for the future of the tech sector with regards to a more diverse and inclusive workforce?
Technology has no future without diversity—we depend on it to build systems which are of value to each of us. Diversity (and I’m including diversity of thought here) may make us uncomfortable in the short-term, but it always results in a better outcome (so long as the vision is shared). Ideally, we won’t have this conversation in the future. The importance of diversity will be built into our social fabric.
If the audience came away with only one action point from your talk or involvement in the event, what do you think it should be?
There are three: one, we’re all responsible for tomorrow’s world. Two, we may not always like or understand other people’s viewpoints, but we should always respect them for it. Three, diversity isn’t just how we’re built, or which groups we belong to—it’s also how we think.
What business benefits do you see as a result of increasing D&I?
The obvious one is that you have more people to choose from when you hire; the second is that if your company represents those you serve, it goes a long way to making the right decisions for your clients.
What practical advice would you offer to someone in the tech industry who wants to incite change?
The change starts with you. No matter your background, no matter what society tells you is or isn’t possible, if you want to do it, do it, even if it’s not easy. You won’t just be happier with your choices—you’ll be a role model for others to follow. One person can have an enormous impact on society.
What motto do you live by?
As a society, we waste too much time worrying about what others think of us. We should be taught early that we are all different, and that’s a good thing.