Cultivating DEI Culture at Bitwise Industries

Bitwise Uses One Acronym to Change Lives

Acronyms are simple abbreviations of longer terms or phrases that are used each day around the world to shorten communications in spoken verse and print. Some are silly responses (LOL), others reference exciting events (NFL), while many are very serious (IRS). There is one acronym, however, that stands alone. It continues to forge its way into the daily lives of the people who deserve it the most. Even though it is not as well known as TGIF, its significance is powerful because it positions low-income workers with opportunities to succeed in a changing economy fueled by an ever-changing world. Bitwise Industries has built its culture around these three letters and will continue to leverage this impactful principle in every city we encounter, and every person we serve.

What is DEI?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a term used to describe policies and programs that promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals, including people of different ages, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, genders, religions, cultures, and sexual orientations.

DEI policies and programs are found more and more in educational institutions and the workplace around the United States. Each word holds merit on its own. Diversity acknowledges the differences in people found in a setting. Equity ensures that the programs and qualifying processes are fair and unbiased. Inclusion is the reassurance that everyone is welcome and safe in the appropriate environment. When the three are used in conjunction with each other to the benefit of an individual, great things happen. 

Addressing educational inequities has been a focal point for universities and public college systems for many years as those institutions strive to bridge the gap to include a wider range of potential students who can achieve a level of higher education that might otherwise not have been considered for generations of people groups. The American workplace is no different. Sorta. 

Diversity training has been around since the 1960s. Most of us have begrudgingly walked into a meeting space packed with people and bagels (a bribe) to sit through the annual mandatory HR training to list the dos and don’ts of the office culture. Typically, this ritual was seen as an hour or two of time lost getting “real work” done for the day that you won’t get back. And right there is the dilemma. Most businesses spend a few hours a year talking only about diversity without realizing how much they are missing out on in business, profits, and life.

They’re Our Neighbors

Before we had phrases like DEI, we referred to the people around us as neighbors, friends, the folks we see at the grocery store. We might not have ever considered that person in line next to us as a flourishing member on staff. That’s what DEI is all about! Bitwise Industries holds the DEI sentiment that “no one belongs here more than you” at the absolute core of what we do. Like we stated in this blog; our corporate culture is molded under the philosophy that our company is about humans. All humans. Humans that vary in race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, socio-economic status, upbringing, and financial status.We hire that way. We work together that way. We pursue underserved communities that way. 
The DEI effort is organic at Bitwise because we are representative of the local population. From the top down–our leadership team is a true reflection of the communities we serve. That doesn’t mean living up to our DEI standards is easy, it’s not. Achieving a cohesive process that works in business every day is complicated. But that’s typical of the things worth doing.

Don’t Hire the Skill Set

The DEI culture at Bitwise is more than checking a percentage of race, color, or creed on the employee roster. We proactively pursue tech opportunities for the right person. This includes the veteran population, unhoused people, and those who were formerly incarcerated. Everyone has value. Everyone. One thing that is seriously vetted when hiring at Bitwise is the vibe of the person. It’s so important that Irma Olguin Jr., Bitwise’s Co-CEO and Co-founder, does the initial interview with every potential candidate for that very reason. Will the fit work? She wants to know from the onset if this is a good person who cares about other people and has the potential to become an ambassador that carries the Bitwise message forward. And most importantly, do they have the drive and grit? It’s a mutually beneficial tact that swings both ways. We want the person and the place to succeed. That’s why Irma says that we hire humans and not skill sets. Since, the whole human walks in the door every day–personal struggles and all–we want to be receptive to their needs and life situations. We’re not concerned about credentials and accolades. If the fit is right, we can train the person up to excel at the skills. When they feel safe, well-represented, and engaged, we know that they will provide the very best they have to offer. We hire humans, and every part of that human matters.

The Bottom Line Will Thank You

At Bitwise,  we’re leading a tech movement deeply rooted in DEI because it’s the right thing to do. Period. But there are revenue-related benefits to doing what’s right, too. Let’s just be plain and say it out loud. According to a 2020 McKinsey & Company report, businesses who rank in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion are more likely to have financial returns above industry medians. Versus the national industry standard, a company with strong racial diversity has shown the likelihood of outperforming financial goals by 36%. Gender diversity yields a 25% increase. These numbers empirically reflect how DEI gives a great advantage to a larger talent pool, increased employee satisfaction, greater corporate innovation, and stronger alignment with the business’ customer base. 

If you’re in a position to affect change in your company but don’t feel that you have a leg to stand on, these numbers begin to support your cause and should be integral in persuading leadership or owners of the value of instituting a DEI program in earnest. If companies want to look toward the future, they need to make DEI a central part of their value systems in the office, and the handbook.

What Our Humans Are Saying

A huge part of DEI leadership is really listening to your team. Their voices. Their challenges. Their experiences. In the spirit of listening, we asked several of the humans on our team the following question: “What have your personal experiences been regarding your heritage, culture, or upbringing?” 

This last year has made us all take a closer look at how we relate to each other. While my experiences are still largely positive, I can see a lot of moments sitting in that ethereal point between full acceptance in the group and being too brown, too many new smells (curry!), too many weird clothes—too different—to be a part of the group. As a kid, I learned to hide my culture in order to fit in with the kids at school. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to embrace my Sri Lankan heritage and see how it’s shaped me, my story, and my perspective to be richer and more inclusive.

Thilani Grubel (She/Her) | VP Bitwise Fresno | Sri Lanken

I would have to say an artwork done by an American artist, David Hammons titled African American Flag (1990) really hits home for me. The artwork itself takes on a complex topic of American identity and ideals. The symbolism within the work embodies the “two-ness” of being both American and Black. I take great pride in both.


Alton Williams (He/Him) | Inside Sales | Black/African American

My experiences surrounded growing up on a reservation and participating in our cultural ceremonies like Pow-wows, practicing our language and cultural foods. Medicine gathering and educating the community on native herbalism, beadwork, and basket-weaving. Most importantly, once I branched away from my tribe community, I have been working towards reconnecting lost natives back to their roots. Ones that didn’t get to experience their own culture on a reservation or were gate-kept away from it due to the genocide that comes with blood quantum. Which is why I started my mission called Strayed Roots.

Rae Sage (They/Them) | Salesforce Administrator | Native American

Practical Steps to a DEI Culture

As we mentioned in the previous section, the main step toward creating or improving a meaningful DEI culture is listening. Hear the voices of those who are locally underserved. Let them ask, “why am I not represented here?” And then answer honestly. If it hurts, that’s an area that needs attention, work, and improvement. Many have made strides to open their business doors wider for DEI humans, but watch them walk away after a few months in the employment cycle. Chances are they leave because positions of power–the ownership, leadership, and management teams–need to be just as diverse and representative as the group of humans they lead. Of course, grace should lead the way for all parties involved because some employers are just waking up to the idea that their company can be a lot better with a DEI-centered platform. A swing-and-a-miss is just that. Sitting idly by waiting for this to be a “passing fad” is foolish. With a bit of patience, practice, and perseverance, your company can find the balance and clarity to provide a work culture that highlights a healthy balance of individuals from all reaches of life. Retrain your mind to see DEI as an opportunity and not an obstacle. Every facet of business and life will improve with your efforts because that person behind the voice represents a family who has found a life improved through your efforts. And that family represents a community. And that community reflects a society. What better ambassador to sing your praises in the community than that person?

Let Us Help

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This post was written by Jeff Rickels, Technical Writer for Bitwise Industries, at the beginning of Black History Month. When he’s not writing, he’s playing music. Jeff feels very thankful for the musicians who have provided him with so much joy and inspiration. Some of those include Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, Corey Glover, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Lajon Witherspoon, Larnell Lewis, Carter Beauford, Dionne Farris, Tom Morello, Vernon Reid, Charlie Parker, and Marvin Gay. To name a few. (Really, this list could go all day.)

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