At TechTalent Academy we believe in the power of real-life role models to inspire the next gen into tech. We strongly believe that changes need to be made to the way businesses attract, recruit and retain talent to collectively work towards true diversity. With this series of interviews, we feature stories of role models that share our view: diversity & inclusion- it matters.

June is Pride month, we wanted to shine the spotlight on the LGBT+ community and how the tech sector can benefit from all forms of diversity.

We are delighted to be joined by Nir Efrat who is listed in the Financial Times Top 100 LGBT+ Executives.

Nir has worked in the tech industry in the UK and Israel and is currently based in New York City as the CEO of Dots. Dots is an indy creative developer of mobile games, famous for their unique art style and played by millions of users worldwide.

 

Nir, it’s great for you to be here – albeit virtually. Can you tell us a bit about your background and what attracted you to a career in tech?

I started out as an engineer in the Israeli Air Force and had always had an interest in technology. I like the linear, “here’s a problem – create a solution – problem fixed model”, which is often absent from other areas of life. After leaving military, I moved into tech based roles within big organisations such as Nokia and Siemens, but it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I transitioned into mobile games which I developed a real passion for. I found myself excited by the opportunity to engage tens of millions of people with entertaining and challenging experiences. It’s within this area that my career accelerated and I developed other business skills and capabilities. I really enjoyed coding, but I must admit, it’s been quite a while since I last did any myself.

Do you think diversity in tech has changed since you first started out and what changes have you noticed?

Yes, absolutely. It’s only been in the last 10 years that there’s been any dialogue around diversity within the tech sector and there was certainly no measurement or tracking before then. Initially, there were very few engineers who were women and even less representation of other minority communities. Now the sector is much more diverse, but we still have a long way to go. One of the key changes has definitely been in collecting diversity data, so we’re better placed to understand our challenges and how to focus our diversity and inclusion resources. The sector is much better informed on how to attract and develop diverse talent which is imperative if we want to continue to innovate, problem solve and serve our diverse users.

You were listed as a Financial Times Top 100 LGBT+ Executives. How have you used that platform to help inspire the next generation of diverse talent?

In my previous role at King, I was Executive Sponsor on the organisation’s LGBT+ agenda and used my influence as a senior leader to access resources for the firm’s Pride network and raise awareness of challenges facing the LGBT+ community. I’ve also used my platform to host educational events; I’ve mentored LGBT+ mentees and now as CEO of Dots, I’ve made sure that diversity is celebrated within our games and therefore user base, as well as within our own internal culture.

Do you have any role models yourself?

I have a couple. I really admire the success of Tim Cook and Sheryl Sandberg as I know Tim’s sexual orientation and Sheryl’s gender will have presented challenges for them which wouldn’t have existed for some of their peers as they climbed the corporate ladder. I think role models are important, but they don’t necessarily have to be leading a business. I have some other role models – friends and family members who have skills and values that I look up to and try to learn from.

In times like these when people are working remotely, what are you and your team doing to keep people engaged and foster inclusion?

There’s been transparent, meaningful communication, but we’re mindful not to overdo it. Our primary concern is for our colleagues’ welfare and we want to ensure they feel safe and valued, but we’re not obliging them to engage beyond business needs. We have meetings to discuss work activity and then offer optional support, fun and learning activities and we encourage feedback from the team on what they’d like more or less of.

Obviously we’ve seen an upsurge in the Black Lives Matter movement recently and we all have overlapping identities. How can minority communities better support one another?

Firstly, we have always endeavoured to foster an environment that is safe and welcoming for everyone, so we set clear parameters and expectations around behaviour and language. We’ve encouraged empathy and open discussion around the Black Lives Matter movement, creating a safe space for people who want to share their stories and for others to listen and learn. It’s really important that communities work together, but also recognise the differences in others’ experiences and resist centring themselves when they should be in listening mode. It’s been a tough few weeks, but there have been reasons for enormous optimism, particularly when I think about the huge Black Trans Lives Matter rallies here, LA and other US cities.

TechTalent Academy provides talent with the technical skills needed to enter and progress careers in the tech sector. What other skills do you look for when considering new hires or promotions?

There are lots of other skills that we’re looking for when we’re hiring: team work, collaboration, passion, creativity, adaptability, empathy‚Ķ generally understanding our purpose and being able to align that with your own.

Finally, I know there is still a lockdown in New York City, but how are you celebrating Pride?

Well, it’s going to be hugely different this year to last year when New York hosted WorldPride, but we’re still going to enjoy it even though we’re only just coming out of lockdown. We’re having Pride themed quizzes and movie nights with the team; some people are sharing Pride stories and of course, Pride is celebrated across all our games, so our users can join in the fun too.