Human: Ashvin Govind's Story

Our book, Human: Global perspectives on diversity in tech features firsthand accounts from 25 individuals, offering insights into what the technology community is doing to create more inclusive environments from the perspective of the individual. Here’s Ashvin's story. 

Ashvin Govind has two roles - ICT Product Manager (NZ Food Safety) at New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, and Chief Product & Technology Officer at Collaborate. At MPI, he is responsible for the strategic development of a digital product roadmap that enables the outcomes for their food safety system. At Collaborate, he is responsible for creating the product and technology vision and the evolution of product ideas from ideation into actionable features.

Throughout my career, I have put in every effort to obtain what I wanted to achieve. In the early stages this meant long hours, exceeding expectations and always saying yes to everything thrown my way. As I climbed the corporate ladder, I soon started realising that I was a minority – generally the youngest member of the team. I believed I needed to bridge the gap in my experience so I decided to spend three years obtaining a MBA. This has been quite fruitful, being able to study part-time and apply my learnings directly to real world situations has helped me add value in different ways than before.

Being in senior roles at the ages I have been in them has definitely been difficult for others to accept at first. It is only when people see outcomes I deliver that I have been able to earn the respect of my peers. Over the years, I have taken actions to be included. I’ve chosen to dress for the job I want versus the job I have, I gave myself a nickname Ash instead of Ashvin and pushed myself to prove to my peers that I can deliver even though I’m a generation younger than them. Realising that I’ve taken such deliberate steps to fit in or be recognised helps me understand how important it is to be mindful of diversity and inclusion.

All the organisations I’ve worked with have supported diversity and inclusion from both an employee and a manager level. I think there is still more we can be doing to support each other. Whilst organisations are putting in more policies and programmes to help increase diversity and inclusion, there is a lot a manager must do to ensure the way we communicate, the way we leverage diversity and be inclusive is the best for everyone. I have found in organisations where the culture is diverse and inclusive by default (Housing New Zealand is a great example – it felt like a big family) it is much easier to keep it front of mind.

The first approach should be conscious decision making - decide to leverage diversity by creating teams that have a diverse range of people. We often believe the ideal candidate is the person that has the best experience and can articulate that through a series of interviews. I challenge employers/hiring managers to think about the other aspects that a candidate may bring to the organisation - multi-lingual, resilience (personal challenges can lead to very resilient people), younger or older generation perspectives, international experience or cultural influence. These are all things that can help an organisation in many ways.

A leadership team is fundamental in creating a culture of acceptance. Many replicate the values and culture of their leaders. When people see leaders supporting diversity and inclusiveness, not as a fad but at both a personal and an organisational level, the people below will adopt the same culture. I also think that it is everyone’s responsibility, if leadership are not as supportive as they could be, then as an individual contributor or people manager - you can choose to make decisions that support diversity and inclusion.

Ashvin’s advice for people working in the tech industry who are feeling overlooked due to their background or experience:

// If you are feeling overlooked - first ask for critical feedback (it’s a gift, although may not feel like it when received) and try to understand the decision making behind why you were overlooked. Think about what you can do differently to be the best candidate for the role - for example how can you leverage your diversity or experience?

// I’ve found it really effective to learn as much as you can about the organisation or team you’re wanting to join; by talking to people, understanding the culture and matching those values and beliefs against your own, can help you assess whether it’s a good fit.

// No matter what you do – never give up. Perseverance and commitment to your goals are crucial.

Read more stories like Ashvin's by downloading our Human: Global perspectives on diversity in tech e-book here, and don't forget to check out our second instalment of Human, Human 2: Bold leadership through crisis and change which you can download here.