At Viam, we recognize that the strongest teams are composed of people from diverse backgrounds, and we are actively creating respectful and inclusive environments where we empower each other to be their authentic selves. You can see that written verbatim in our Succeed Through Diversity value, but our values were not just created for a convenient blog post for our website. We are proud to live our values daily, and a perfect example of that is our Women & Non-Binary Employee Resource Group.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’d love to introduce you to the founders of the Women & Non-Binary Group to share a bit more about how this group helps us Succeed Through Diversity.
Emily: To kick things off, tell me, what made you interested in forming the Women & Non-Binary Group at Viam?
Katharina: Throughout my life and career, I have experienced countless obstacles in becoming and being a successful engineer because I am a woman. This took a toll on my self-confidence, and I learned to be quiet and not to ask questions or speak up out of fear of being ridiculed. That, in turn, did impact my career growth negatively! It is a vicious cycle I'm still working on breaking out of. Some things that help with this are: knowing that I'm not alone and hearing the stories of other women & non-binary people with similar experiences.
Fahmina: I wanted to create a space where women & non-binary folks can celebrate and support each other. Throughout my career in robotics, I frequently found myself in environments where I was the sole woman on the team. While I could always connect with my colleagues on technical aspects of our work, there were times where I felt lonely because I didn't have people that could empathize with my full experience. When I got to Viam, it was so awesome to have a diverse set of colleagues, and starting this ERG was a natural extension of our desire to bring our whole selves to work, share our stories, and connect.
Natalia: I was heavily involved with the women’s group in my previous job. One of the most fulfilling things I did as a member was organize the first annual women’s conference. It was a huge success, and I realized how important it is for women & non-binary people to support each other in a professional setting. So when I joined Viam, it was a natural thought that we should have an employee resource group for women & non-binary people here.
Emily: What is the importance of these types of groups at work?
Katharina: It is essential to have a Women & Non-Binary group at work because we are a minority that faces unique challenges. One of those challenges is isolation and a vague sense of loneliness. When working in tech, it is common to have women & non-binary people sparsely distributed among teams. While surrounded by extraordinary colleagues, we can't help but feel that if more “colleagues like us surrounded us," we'd be happier and more productive. Having a Women & Non-binary group at work helps us regain that sense of not being alone and helps connect with women & non-binary people outside our respective teams.
Fahmina: Having a support network such as the Women & Non-Binary ERG at Viam helps ensure that we are creating a culture that attracts folks with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and ways of thinking. This in turn makes us all more effective at achieving our overall company goal of building a software platform to program robots, which is frankly something that doesn't exist in the market today.
Natalia: It is pretty well known that in tech women & non-binary people are a minority. Within the subcategory of robotics, there are even fewer women & non-binary people (evident by every robotics and hardware meetup I have attended). I believe it is important for us to look out for each other and support each other with our professional goals acknowledging what is unique to our experience as women & non-binary people both in the workforce generally and specifically in robotics.
Emily: What goals does the group hope to accomplish?
Fahmina: Our biggest goal is being inclusive and supportive. We want to listen to our members and tailor our programming to them. The programming could look like sponsored talks, casual dinners, or more structured mentorships. It all depends on what our team needs!
Emily: What has the group accomplished so far since it was created?
Natalia: We have already hosted a few events so far which included quarterly dinners for our members to hang out in a casual and friendly setting. Another event organized by group members was a lunch & learn which was geared towards performance reviews and compensation negotiation. We also have a designated private Slack channel which can be used for anything that a member might deem helpful. People ask questions, have shared resources and links to communities for women & non-binary people in tech/robotics, and have even posted about events around the city relating to women & non-binary people.
Emily: How does this group relate to our mission as a company?
Katharina: Viam's mission aims to make it easy to turn great ideas into production robots, as well as helping more people start working with robots to build products and services that improve our world. Women & non-binary people comprise more than 50% of the human population! By voicing what we need to start working with robots and turning our ideas into production robots, we directly help further Viam's mission.
Our team is growing, and we are looking for candidates from various backgrounds to join us! If Viam sounds like a fun place to work, please apply to our open roles here. And if you'd like to learn more about our values, check out our post on The Value of Values. Thanks for following along our team's journey!