Diversity is Our Superpower

February 24, 2021 | Words by Shubhi Mishra

I am Shubhi Mishra, founder and CEO of Raft, a GovTech digital consultancy solving complex problems that impact millions of Americans every day. I started with a clear vision - Raft would be a new breed of digital consultancy, operating as a human-centered think tank to solve urgent problems with daily rigor and forward-looking innovation. As a woman of color, I had no illusions: the tech world is still a male-dominated, non-diverse space. Furthermore, women in federal contracting are often seen as figureheads put in leadership roles to take advantage of socio-economic vendor selection preferences. Presumptions about who I am and what I am capable of are real and continuous.

Consequently, creating a diverse and inclusive culture has never been an afterthought for me. At Raft, diversity is a marathon and not a sprint. We don’t focus on “diversity” because it is trending. It is the core principle of our founding.  We are named after a radical consensus algorithm because we believe consensus among diverse viewpoints isn’t a feature of a good solution; It IS the solution. At the inception of Raft, I recognized we could only achieve our mission if we were not just remote-first, but also human-first.

What do diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to us?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have several dimensions. They go well beyond race and gender. Diversity is individuality. Diversity is owning who you are. We are non-traditional and we value non-traditional journeys. We love our combination of obsessive checklist makers, industry-certified experts, diligent planners, outside the box thinkers, and enthusiastic risk takers. We appreciate folks who share their stories about making lemonade out of lemons. We have all been there and we have a special place in our heart for those who are brave enough to share those stories with us.

How do we ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Recognizing unconscious bias is challenging. A lot of times folks don’t realize that bias creeps into decision making. We are intentional about recognizing bias and treat the problem of unconscious bias as an ongoing exercise in growth-mindset. This begins with our hiring process and continues through every project and team member journey.

  • We look for humans, not resumes. We don’t hire for X number of experiences or look for specific degrees. We value life experiences of helping others, learning from challenges, and remaining persistent. We look at the whole human.

  • We don’t leave diversity to chance. We create a rubric for any position before we start the interview process. When we ask our candidates to submit assignments, we use a diverse review team to evaluate responses.

  • We celebrate human diversity. We don’t judge, rather we celebrate individuality and unique contribution to the group.

  • We actively reach out to find more humans. We hire from HBCUs like Bowie State and seek support from organizations such as The BIPOC Project and Girls Who Code to expand our talent pool. We are remote-first, flexible, and attuned to meeting the changing needs of humans wherever they are and whatever their needs may be. Furthermore, because we started with these goals from our inception, our internal referral network is also an effective diversity network.

Where do we go from here?

We are proud of the team we have at Raft today in many ways. However, we know we can always do better. What gets measured gets done. We will continue to measure more dimensions of diversity to ensure our talents and perspectives span the needs and concerns of our clients and their customers and users. We will continue to be transparent regarding these efforts. This openness will keep us honest and invite collaboration and conversation with our allies in the field. We understand that DE&I is complicated and if handled incorrectly, even well-intentioned practices can go awry. Consequently, we also plan to measure inclusion and sense of belonging, including a consideration of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s significant work on intersectionality, because people often get grouped across multiple social categories. We are opting to use team-based disaggregated reports (as opposed to company-wide analysis). This will help us develop more defined and targeted DE&I strategies.

To honor and to serve

The business, moral, and legal cases are clear: diverse environments consistently outperform less diverse environments in outcomes and in culture. Our diversity is our superpower and when we serve you, our superpower becomes your superpower. Together we soar.

We'll make waves together.