Hayley Bakker: Diversity & Inclusion, Building Self Awareness & South Africa Roots - E140

· Purpose,Start-up,Singapore,Women,Podcast Episodes English

When it comes to being brave, you have the big parts of being brave like career choices and growing as an entrepreneur you also have the more day to day and I like to focus a little bit more on those sometimes because being brave in your day to day where you speak up or you raise issues when you see something that you think is not OK or it does not align with your values. That’s really important, and I’ve seen that many times and sometimes I don’t do something and I get so mad at myself. So I definitely have to improve it- Hayley Bakker

Hayley Bakker is a Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Diversely, an HR SaaS platform that helps businesses attract more diverse applicants and remove bias from their hiring with smart (AI driven) tools, diversity analytics and bite-size unconscious bias training.

Prior to that she founded Colibri Growth, a Tech Offshoring company that helps tech startups in Singapore to set up and manage their tech teams and development in Vietnam. Hayley’s passion and drive for diversity in the workplace was sparked from her experience working in traditionally male dominated industries (M&A, banking and tech). She led non-profit Girls in Tech's Singapore chapter for a number of years and recently helped to set up the Vietnam chapter - both working to empower, engage and educate women (with an interest) in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

Hayley graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering and a Masters of Science in Financial Engineering and Management and is Certified in Agile Scrum, Human-Centered Design and Lean Six Sigma.

Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hi, welcome aboard, Hayley, to the show.

Hayley Bakker: (00:33)
Thanks so much, awesome to be here.

Jeremy Au: (00:34)
I’m really excited to have you on the show because you’re such a strong voice for diversity and inclusion, especially in the corporate and the everywhere world, especially in Southeast Asia and that’s really an important voice for us to share your point of view

Hayley Bakker: (00:48)
Thanks. I’m really excited about sharing that journey as well.

Jeremy Au: (00:52)
For those who don’t know you yet, how would you introduce yourself professionally?

Hayley Bakker: (00:57)
Professionally, I’m the cofounder of Diversely which is a HR-tech company focused on helping people to recruit and attract more diverse talent to their businesses. I cofounded the business together with my business partner Helen McGuire. I’m also the sole-founder of a company called Colibri Growth, it’s kind of a tech off-shoring, I prefer to say, off-sharing company which is based in Vietnam and helps tech startups in Singapore grow and extend their product development there. I’m also the managing director of girls in tech in Singapore and just recently come ashore in helping women progress especially in tech…actually, in whatever they want to achieve out of life, is one of my key drivers, I would say.

Jeremy Au: (01:50)
Amazing. I got to ask you…as a result, it just feels like you have such a love for technology and being a founder and diversity. Could you share about when you first got started into the transition between your time at KPMG, Standard Charted Bank, that felt very banking world for a long time. So, how did that transition happen between the banking world to the technology world?

Hayley Bakker: (02:11)
Yeah, that’s a question that actually comes up a lot and also when I speak at events with girls in tech, a lot of women come up to me and they say I’m thinking of setting up my own company; like did you always know; and what made you brave enough? Referring back to your podcasting work, what was the brave moment that you decided to do this? Actually, my answer isn’t that fundamental. It’s not like I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. It wasn’t in my family per se. You mentioned it yourself, I really started from a corporate world background. I worked at a bank first in Hong Kong. Then I worked at KPMG in the Netherlands, built a really solid foundation and felt that that was going to be my career path. I’ll never forget at KPMG when I first joined, all the partners got all the juniors together and said who here are going to be a partner at KPMG and everyone looks at each other and most of them raised their hands. I remember I didn't raise my hand at that point in time and I remember thinking is this career suicide right now? But I knew that I didn’t necessarily want to climb the traditional ladder. I was very explorative, adventurous, I think, in everything that I did, but it wasn’t like becoming a founder or becoming an entrepreneur was on that road map per say. I just didn’t really know where it was gonna go. So, at KPMG, built a really solid background. The great thing, and I always recommend to all young people, join something like a KPMG or any consulting firm where you can get so much experience, so much exposure to different businesses and professional ways of working, and that foundation will help you, independent of what you want to do next. For me, what I was missing there was getting to know businesses inside out and interacting more with people because I was working in the deal advisory space doing financial due diligence. So, a lot of spreadsheets, a lot of laptops, but not a lot of people and not about really understanding the businesses in and out. Then I moved into business transformation which, definitely, I found a lot more fun and engaging so the financial background was still useful, but was understanding processes and organizations in people. But then from there I felt like I still wasn’t getting my hands dirty enough. You know, it was a lot of times setting up projects and advising but not following through. From there, I moved into Standard Chartered Bank as an in-house consultant and the great part about that was that you really got to follow through and not only advise, but take that advice and operationalize it, essentially, within the business, but then even within Standard Chartered Bank, after a couple of years, it started to itch a little. It’s such a huge organization, around 100,000 people around the globe. It offered great opportunities in terms of projects - I did secured lending in Kenya and I did HR transformation in China. It offered a lot, but I felt like I was still on this huge oil tanker and I was rowing, rowing, rowing, but we weren’t actually moving as fast as I potentially wanted us to be moving and that makes sense. I mean, it’s a huge organization. There are a lot of approval steps for everything, but the nice thing is that it also introduced me to some tech startups because while we were doing our projects within the bank, we were working with a lot of startups, see these awesome founders solving real problems and working at a much faster pace than we were able to do, which was great from the bench perspective because we started working with them and doing proof of concepts, but then, one thing that I noticed was that they were really struggling to attract talent to scale their product development and the techniques that we had in the bank, for instance, weren’t really equipped to work with the latest technologies that were required and build products, they were more like maintaining legacy systems and that kind of thing. So I guess my entrepreneur journey really started with just seeing a problem in the market. And I’ve always loved solving problems. I guess as a consultant, that’s kind of what you do and then I took that opportunity and I remember discussing with my husband. I think there’s a real thinker here like all these startups, they can’t progress, they can’t scale as quickly as they want to, they can’t find the right talent, and when they find the talent and they work with them remotely, it doesn’t always work well. There’s a lot of turnover, there’s a lot of miscommunication. Think there’s something that I can solve here, and that’s really how my first business was born is when my husband said, well, why don’t you just do it, just buy it. You need to have that support system. Why couldn’t I actually do that? There’s no reason I built all these skills. Maybe this is my time to just take their skills and apply them in funding for me and that’s why I went to Vietnam and I quit my job and I just ended up meeting loads of different people, networking at universities and coding boot camps and, eventually, after two months, went, yup, I’m going to set up the company in Vietnam and within a month attracted my first client in Singapore and it really just started rolling. And yeah, since then, I haven’t really looked back at corporate life for…I think three years? And I find it really difficult envisioning myself working in a corporate anymore.

Jeremy Au: (07:18)
Oh, no. You’ve been really bitten by the bug then?

Hayley Bakker: (07:21)
I have.

Jeremy Au: (07:24)
I think what’s interesting is that there were two major transitions that happened. at first. Of course, was this transition of becoming a founder versus corporate life, and the second transition, your geography, so could you also quickly tell us about your story about how you transitioned from where you were to Singapore and then to Vietnam? So, tell us about that geographic shift as well.

Hayley Bakker: (07:45)
yeah, I have had quite a diverse background if you will. Actually, I grew up, and not a lot of people know this, I grew up in South Africa, so I lived there until I was ten with my two parents and my parents both grew up in South Africa, but my mother is originally French Mauritian and my father is Dutch. When I was 10, because of the high crime rate in South Africa, we lived in Johannesburg in Joburg, which was one of the worst. My mom was like - I don’t want my kids to grow up with this kind of situation. I want them to be able to walk, roam freely in the streets. So, we moved back to the Netherlands, my father’s kind of home, but he had never really lived there himself. So I remember arriving in the Netherlands and this being a huge culture shock, I mean climate shock. We moved in the middle of winter, would never recommend anyone moving to Europe in the middle of winter, but a lot of different elements that struck me even at the age of 10 is like the schooling system. I went to a British school in South Africa, very competitive, everyone wore uniforms and suddenly I was in this school in the Netherlands, has I think, an amazing school system, told that having fun and learning through creativity, and there’s no ranking or not much competitiveness, but also things like because I came from Africa, we lived in a small traditional community in the Netherlands, that’s where we ended up first. All the kids were literally asking - did you grow up riding elephants? Did you have a lion as a pet? I definitely realized then that coming from different places, you have a certain awareness in the world and how things can be done differently as well. And I think I always took that with me and that’s why it definitely came from my upbringing. My parents were very supportive of - go explore, go travel the world any opportunity you can because any different perspectives that you can pick up as young as possible will help you along the way in understanding the world, but also building empathy for different groups of people. So, actually, from there, I did an internship in Chile, in Santiago, in South America…loved it, I thought I was gonna live in South America and marry a Latino guy but then eventually met my current husband at KPMG during the internship in the Netherlands and ended up moving to Hong Kong before I had even graduated. So, I was still doing my masters in financial engineering and he said actually, I have this opportunity to go to Hong Kong, what do you think? Yes, we have to do this. That’s amazing. As I say, my parents were – grab any opportunity you can. So, I actually ended up completing my last exam when I was already in Hong Kong. I did it remotely. Then I started working on my thesis there with a Dutch bank so it’s fortunate to, at least, still have some Dutch association there and also started my first job in Hong Kong, which was fantastic because I was a business analyst to the Regional CFO and I don't think that's an opportunity usually get just straight off the bat from graduating and also he taught me a lot and I'll never forget one thing that he told me it was never come into the room with a problem if you don’t have at least three alternative solutions to a problem, and that has always stuck with me and I always pass this on as well. But then after two years in Hong Kong, I did miss a little bit of that foundation that I was talking about. It was very ad hoc and it was very learned on the job, but there was little structure or hand holding to the whole thing. So that’s when I come into my husband - Let’s move back to Europe. Do consulting for a couple of years, but always knew that there was this passion for Asia that was born in Hong Kong. I loved it, did a lot of hiking there. A lot of people don’t realize the amazing hiking in Hong Kong as well. So then after two years back in the Netherlands, I felt like okay, off the foundation now, we can move back to Asia and then just started applying and luckily enough, I could go through KPMG so they helped me move into the region and into Singapore. And while Singapore is very different to Hong Kong, it felt very easy immediately getting into, you know, work life, so many different cultures and backgrounds. It was awesome. There wasn’t really much of a leap. When it comes to work culture. There were differences, definitely more hardworking, I found also little bit less mature when it came to the tech projects we were doing for instance. So that was really interesting to see, but, again, a lot of learnings that we could take from that, so that that’s definitely the most important part for me.

Jeremy Au: (12:21)
Amazing. I just love both aspects of it – your self-discovery in terms of corporate and your spark to be a founder as well as your geographic switching and embedding. What’s interesting is that those two things have come together into this very interesting topic that you’ve chosen to focus on and you see that quite a bit with your leadership with girls in tech as well as Diversely which spelt out in the name itself. So, why diversity? Why is that out of those two threads, why is diversity the thing that you really feel and have dedicated quite a number of years into?

Hayley Bakker: (13:00)
Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say there wasn’t one moment. Looking back there were many. I just didn’t know if I was aware of them at the time, but it even started when I was looking for my first program for my bachelor’s degree and I remember going to the engineering university in the Netherlands and I have a passion for science and such things like Physics. I shortlisted a couple of programs and thought that I’ll go check them out and then I went to the applied Physics program intro and remember going there and being like no I don’t feel at home here. I don’t see myself here. I’m going away and then choosing industrial engineering because it felt more like my people were there. At the time I didn’t really pinpoint what that was, but now looking back, I know, because I walked into the room and there were only men. Pretty much one type of man as well - very white, clearly didn’t get out in the sun a lot, had long hair and just remember looking around and remember being conscious about it going I don’t fit in here, and that is essentially what led my decision. I’m happy with my decision, you know, I believe, stand behind your decisions. You learn from everything that you do. But what if there had been a different group of people in that room? Would I have then decided to pursue something that was actually more passionate about which was physics or industrial engineering. So, it even started at that point in time. I'm a big believer in people won't be as inclined to move into an area if they don't see themselves in that area and that's one part of what I've always tried to do. Also, with Girls In Tech, but even before that, always setting up woman led groups and organizations to show others and those that come after us that there are women in these professions and they are striving and you can be here. And Girls In Tech is, for those that don’t know, it’s a non-profit. It’s a global organization, so it’s founded in the US, but have pretty independent chapters around the world and I joined in Singapore three years ago, around the same time that I set up my first business and I was actually doing a woman in business mentoring program at that time. So Standard Chartered Bank is quite awesome when it comes to basic things. They’re really pushing for diversity, not only for women, also many other elements, but they will be forward for a woman in leadership program. The internal program that I followed first, it was…to be honest, a bit disappointing for me because the way the program was set up, but later I realized it wasn’t that the program wasn’t set up right, it just wasn’t right for me because a lot of the program was about how to combine, you know, family commitments and children with still progressing in your career and managing your time. I really didn’t recognize myself in those messages, and I’ve never understood that to be honest, is that if there were one, is the male leadership program talking about these things, or are they talking about how to present a strategic vision in the company and how to be a great people leader. I was missing that. So, raised this through my boss, who was also in and said okay, how about we find an external program for you that focuses a lot more on leadership building capabilities? It was really great one and join that program, called Protégé, highly recommend it and had the most amazing mentor there and he really helped me build the confidence in myself and then also introduced this mentoring program in Girls In Tech. This helped me so much, it’s really what helped build the confidence to even take a few more steps in setting up the business and then setting up the second business (Diversely) and just felt like we need to have more exposure for women to build confidence and see role models and network with each other because one of the feedback that I saw a lot and didn’t necessarily hit me personally, it was like, the old boys club all within my team or the guys go out for drinks and he didn’t invite me and all these kind of things and I think given my background I was always like one of the guys. I played football, I was always out playing with the guys and I was always out drinking beers but I did see this happening in the companies and especially at KPMG, for instance, where there were a couple of partners we all knew who never would put women on their teams. They never do, and it was common knowledge, and we just actually, we thought that was normal, so, looking back, I started building and training all of this in the context of - There is a real issue here and ignoring it or just pretending or just moving on, we might be able to get there, but we need to bring more women on that journey and that's really why I joined Girls In Tech in Singapore and we hosted loads of events about some of the things that you were talking about, Jeremy, like how to transition from one area into another, how to use your network in a meaningful way and build that network and help each other because I think a lot of science has also shown that women aren’t trying to help each other as you would expect, for instance, or building that for women in Singapore and last year…actually, early this year we decided to set up the same in Vietnam, so our group of women in Vietnam are posting they said we’d love to have this here. So yeah, we’re slowly expanding in the region which is really exciting and then that also drove me during the COVID lockdown last year. I think a lot of people we went through this year like that you're sitting at home, think what am I really passionate about? What makes me wanna stand up in the morning? What doesn't feel like work? And I mean anything around Girls In Tech definitely was one of those things and I just felt these great tech capabilities with my previous company so my current co-founder, Helen McGuire, approached me in that time and said, hey we met each other at a Girls In Tech event a few years before. Hayley, I think this is an amazing moments to step back and figure out how we can scale the impact that we’re having on women when it comes to hiring and progressing in their career, and I think we would be great cofounders and then I called her up I called her up immediately, I was like this sounds amazing, what do you have in mind? And she pitched it kind of an early stage version of what Diversely is to be and I said yeah, let’s try it out. I mean what do we have to lose? So, we were in this lockdown period now, so we work completely remotely at the beginning and from our own personal experience. Really started researching and drafting. What could a viable business model be that helps women progress but also helps companies who want to become more diverse. We do want to do the right thing to be able to measure and track their diversity, but then also help them to do the right thing by attracting diverse applicants. And it started off very much from a woman’s perspective. But then we realized if we’re solving this problem for women, why wouldn’t we just look at it more holistically? So, then we started looking at race, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, age of them. So, discrimination versus age which I was already seeing a lot in tech where people go oh, no, they’re too old, they won’t be able to learn anymore like these kind of biases creeping in, people with disability or sexual orientation. So eventually the product evolved into something so much more than we had even ever hoped for when we started off with Diversely, as a company and, since, has really evolved and we just launched the product last week, so it’s been really an exciting last year journey.

Jeremy Au: (20:25)
So, Hayley, there must have been quite a lot of misconceptions and myths that you’ve discovered along the way in diversity that you’ve encountered along the way or at your current startup, can you tell us more?

Hayley Bakker: (20:39)
Yeah definitely. Thanks for asking that question. It’s definitely a topic that I delve into a lot with businesses and also working are people around me and things that they say and you just realize that there are different levels of maturity when it comes to speaking about diversity, but it also differs across where you are in the world. So, one of them is a misconception that I come across a lot is that it’s just about gender, for instance, or we like to highlight that biases and different expectations about what people can or cannot do is not only on the male female front, it’s across the board, it’s socio economic. It’s you know what you look like when it comes to race and those kind of things. But I think I mentioned earlier also age biases, which we see a lot, so that’s an important one. That diversity is diversity of thought, its diversity of personality types, diversity of religion, nature, all these kind of elements. And another thing that we come across in more on the business side of things is when I tell people that I have a startup in diversity. Oh, that’s awesome. So, you do trainings? Oh, it’s a non-profit. And I think one thing that I always want to make clear is that there’s a whole business model…you’re solving real existing business problems that touch both revenue and costs for businesses, and therefore it, definitely, by definition, doesn’t have to be a non-profit business there. There’s a whole business model that you can generate around this topic, and companies are willing to pay for these things, especially in the US and Europe. But also, companies that go oh, but we’ve already solved our diversity and inclusion because we just hired a diversity and inclusion lead. That’s not all. It has to be embedded within the organization with the way you work and training is one part of that, but being an engineer myself, measurement and tracking and analytics are equally important. And there’s actually a lot of science behind DNI so, well, yeah, I think one of them is that I also want them to know is that it’s like this soft area of business when actually it doesn’t have to be and I think with being on maturing in the world and people getting a better understanding, we’re seeing that this is same as sales and marketing. It’s something we can track. It is something we can impact and influence, and we should.

Jeremy Au: (22:52)
One interesting thing about all of that is that there is this growing trend towards diversity and inclusion like you mentioned, but there is that focus on training. How do you see that further embedding of diversity inclusion happening because I think there’s a bull case and a bear case, and both of them are in the head. So, I’ll love to hear what you think about it.

Hayley Bakker: (23:16)
Great question and some people when they hear me speak, they think that I’m against training, which is definitely not the case. I just think we need a much more holistic approach to this. When people think that oh, you know, we do our unconscious bias training or inclusivity training or whatever it is. I think that is great. Because changing mindset and creating awareness is super important when you kick off in this journey and getting everyone on board, very important. But that’s not the end goal. I mean, first we need to change the mindset we need to make people aware and training can be the right method for doing that. But what you see in training a lot of times is that we get back to our day jobs, whatever that is in the company and all the training goes out of the window, you know we’re under pressure we’re under a lot of stress to hit targets and deadlines and quotas and, suddenly, we just don’t even remember any of the points. So that’s how I believe in changing the way in which we work and making diversity and inclusion a part of everything and there are lots of amazing tools out there and startups that are starting so one of our referral partnerships that we set up is with a company called Orange Cat and they’re now measuring within companies, different roles and when people join for the first time, how much are they engaged within the company? So, are they then invited for meetings within their own area, but also with other parts of the organizations. Are they part of decision making processes? Even things like do they meet different people at the coffee machine or now that we were remote, are they having interactions on Skype or chat or whatever it is? So again, for me it’s about measuring the right things. On a consistent day to day basis, rather than once a year doing this training and how, Diversely, we’re approaching that is making diversity inclusion part of the hiring process. So, you’re going to go through these steps anyway. We don’t want to make diversity inclusion another thing on your to do list. We know hiring managers are super busy. So, making it a part of how they work is not gonna define or write a job ad that make sure that that is written in a way that is inclusive and inviting to a broader talent group and if you’re reviewing CVs or going through assessment, then let’s make sure that those are bias free part of what you’re doing already, so that’s no way in which I think data analytics and embedding these practices in day-to-day processes will help make it part of a company’s DNA rather than a one off, off-site kind of event, which is also important.

Jeremy Au: (25:49)
So I gotta ask because I can imagine so many HR people or founders listening to this podcast would be like, well, I’m pretty fair right now with my hiring process already, I get my resumes we’re scrambling for talent, it’s really pretty hard to find talent, especially in Southeast Asia, so I wouldn’t even want to discriminate because. I’m so starved for talent so I don’t see why I need to add on this new module of going to DNI, diversity inclusion, especially when I’m already starved for talent. What would you say to that?

Hayley Bakker: (26:22)
That’s so true and we do get that feedback sometimes and I think 2 answers to that. So, one thing is, you really don’t have to do that many things differently to embed it in your process, and so it doesn’t have to be an added extra in terms of time spent, but, two, there’s always that element to not knowing what you don’t know. And having that unconscious bias in there and sometimes HR, definitely, I think most of the time they have the intention of doing the right thing, so I don’t think that’s the problem. But when, for instance, we look at job ads that companies are putting into the rules and we analyse them…so we have a scientifically backed tool that analyses the language that is used. We find that a lot of them score in the lower half, so they have a lot of biased phrases in there. They’re not aware, and why would they, we’re not applied linguists, usually. Don't make sense, but research has shown that the type of language and phrases that you use can deter different applicants from, especially, underrepresented or minority backgrounds as an example. So that's one way for helping hiring managers, recruiters, HR become aware of the language that they're putting out there, and how that impacts people who come in and apply it to these jobs. The second one is getting where talents sits and, especially, getting where there's underrepresented groups sit. So, again, a lot of recruiters say, oh, but we, we always just post out on LinkedIn. Well, how’s that working out for you at the moment? Are you getting the right talent? Are you getting diverse talent search For me, a lot of them don’t know because they don’t track these kind of things. So, I think, yeah, putting that measurement in place is so important. But, secondly, also discovering where that talent is sitting because not everyone will be on LinkedIn and, especially, in certain countries in Southeast Asia, like I look at Vietnam, LinkedIn doesn’t have a great adoption there. So, finding out different channels in different communities and groups and job boards, it’s such an important part of expanding the breadth of talent that you’re reaching with these inclusive job ads, but also tapping into different groups. So, we look at 50 plus job boards. We look at fresh grads. We look at those that focus specific areas, especially in US, you have a lot that proves the Hispanic community, Black. So really making people aware of what's out there and making it easy to post out to all of these kind of job boards without them having to put a lot of effort into it or copy pasting and then I get the third one again on the unconscious bias when you're reviewing and hopefully and I do generally believe that most people will not purposefully be discriminating when they’re going through CVS. I say we all want to get the best person at the end of the day, but what we hear a lot, and I heard this one in tech, I mentioned, oh, this person is too old. Well, let’s just test their ability to learn if that’s what you’re afraid of. Let’s test what’s important rather than judging them based on that they’ve worked for 20 years in this industry or that there are 45 years old and similarly universities. So we remove all kinds of identifiable data from CVs when we present them to hire managers and recruiters and a lot of pushback we get is on oh, but if I don’t know the university that they went to, how do I know if they’re good and especially for myself? Coming from the Netherlands, I’ve got this really firm belief that having fair opportunities to equal education is so important and it’s true certain socio-economic groups won’t be able to. Even if you look at a lot of schooling systems, they are disadvantaged from the start. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t have great learning capabilities that they’re not perfectly suitable for this roll, so we removed that kind of data as well. Companies struggled a little bit with that, but I think once you give them the right arguments and you show them that people coming from different schools might actually be very well fit for the position, but you’ve actually been filtering them out for all these years is a great way of, as I say, creating that mindset shift, but then through the tools and processes that they work on.

Jeremy Au: (30:16)
Amazing. What do you think is the differentiation between someone who gets it versus someone who doesn’t…or needs more time to get it? What would you say, you need some pivotal moments for them to experience or industries like…I don’t know…what would you say are the differences between those acknowledged staff versus less so?

Hayley Bakker: (30:38)
Oh, I love that and I think if you have experienced it yourself in any capacity, obviously that’s a great eye opener and that’s why I like, I mentioned a few times, the discrimination based on age because not all of us will come from a minority background, not all of us will have the gender issues, but at some point in time we’ve all been fresh grads and at some point in time we’ll all be there. Middle age or even older than that, so there’s a chance that we will all face that. So that’s an area to be really aware of, and, especially, now that the working world is evolving so quickly and we’re supposed to be adopting all these new technologies, I think there will be a lot more discrimination against older people. I think those groups that have identified with. Certain types of potential bias are definitely more aware of it, but secondly, those who have just expose themselves to different environments generally. So I mentioned like the living in different places and figure out there are different ways of doing things or see there are a lot of people that are set in their ways of working, and especially sometimes we work with companies that have really established and longstanding HR departments, they’re a little bit more like oh no, but we have our ways of working and we’ve been doing this for 20 years. There’s a longer process of convincing them, and that’s why we really like working with scale up companies that are growing because they’re already open to discovering new ways of working in experimentation and I think diversity and inclusion should just be part of that discovering what works for you as a business and growing businesses are usually a little bit more open to that, but when it comes to people, it’s really having that growth mindset, experimentation mindset are the ones that definitely get it.

Jeremy Au: (32:16)
What’s interesting is that you have this dual hat because you talk about diversity inclusion within the talent spectrum, you’re also working on what you call off-sharing or off-shoring which is also the arbitrage spectrum of cross-countries as well. So, I think that one thing everybody agrees on is that perception that there is a big shortage of technology talent across the region and I’m just kind of curious what do you think about that?

Hayley Bakker: (32:41)
No, definitely, and Girls In Tech, we had so many partners coming saying we need your help. We need to get more women into tech and we wanted to generally have obviously a bigger tech talent pool and I’ve opened up Vietnam, which I think is amazing because on the other side of the spectrum, Vietnam was still very early stages when it comes to globalization, with tech companies establishing and providing opportunities to the amazing engineering workforce that is there so it does work from both sides, but when it comes to tech talent, there’s a role to play for companies and this, again, it’s a bit of a mindset shift, is always wanting to hire people who have got 10 years experience in something or have five years in Restful APIs when Restful APIs have only existed for three and a half, so there’s a mindset shift of companies having to look less so at what are the established experience and sell their skills out there and looking at people in terms of the potential, the growth mindset, their ability to learn new things, and then there’s transferable skill sets, so that’s a lot of conversations. That we have had with girls in tech but also now in diversity and also for myself at Colibri Growth and saying you have those capabilities in house or we can work with training parties to bring them up to the level that you need. But let’s see how quickly they can learn, so let’s also re-evaluate the way in which we assess people suitability for a role. Let’s look at more speaker metric testing. What we started doing at some point is, even within the tech space, if we would have an interview and then ask candidates like oh, where do you feel most confident? Or do you feel less confident when it comes to tech and personal skills and then we would actually give them a very quick assignment on something that they said that they didn’t know? And again, it wasn’t about how well did they do in it, but do they demonstrate that? Ability to learn and grasp and research new things in a short amount of time, and that was way more important than testing. They’re amazing at JavaScript. We’re not going to test that. That’s fine. I’m sure you can do that, but can you learn quickly? Then you measure, I think, for success, and if we continue to only evaluate people on how many years of experience they have in existing tech you’re going to have a real big issue with attracting talent.

Jeremy Au: (34:50)
Whereas we talk about that, you must have gone through some tough times as well. So, could you share with us a time when you were BRAVE?

Hayley Bakker: (34:58)
These days, honestly, I feel like if I’m not feeling out of my desk then I’m not doing something right. I continuously have the sense that I’m not able to keep up that I’m drowning a little bit. I’ve just come to accept that as being almost the new normal for me is that now if I don’t feel that way. I’m a little bit panicked. Why am I not feeling comfortable? This is not right, but generally I mean if you look at my career, I’ve always, I think for my parents I’ve had that confidence of trying new things and making big steps. But I think when it comes to being brave, you have the big parts of being brave like career choices and growing as an entrepreneur you also have the more day today and I like to focus a little bit more on those sometimes because I think being brave in your day to day where you speak up or you raise issues when you see something that you think is not OK or it does not align with your values. I think that’s really important, and I’ve seen that many times and sometimes I don’t it and I get so mad at myself. So I definitely have to improve it. An example is when I was in my corporate career, I would say similar things like my boss would always rely on me or someone else who had already done things before and we would always get offered these amazing opportunities to do things. But the people who haven’t had that opportunity to learn that skill or done that kind of workshop, they would be overlooked because they hadn’t done it before. And I would generally, that’s unfair because how are they ever gonna learn if you never give them an opportunity? So, definitely like speaking up for people on the team that weren’t getting a fair treatment or fair opportunities. If you’re in a position where you know you do have that respect from leadership is something that is really important. And I think everyone should work on doing that more, including myself.

Jeremy Au: (36:43)
How do you center yourself because the story of Icarus is that don’t fly too high to the sun and the part that is not mentioned is that he also warned his son not to fly too close to the water; that sweet spot in between being too intense and being too conservative. So, how do you kind of like center yourself during these times?

Hayley Bakker: (37:02)
Yeah, I think for me, having an amazing support network helps. I am the type of person I need to talk things through and talk things over, so I did that a lot with my…haven’t actually touched upon her much…but Helen McGuire, my cofounder. When I first set up Colibri Growth I did that alone and I didn’t want a business partner. I want to do everything my way and I think looking back I was a little bit too cautious. I think I stayed too close to the water within your analogy and now having a co-founder, I realized having that sparring partner and someone who can discuss the scenario A, B, and C, and go through, has proven to be so valuable. I think having the right person to speak about these things is great, but also setting yourself deadlines and targets so that you can keep yourself real so we do have a monthly goal setting. We have our yearly goal setting as well. We do monthly ones and having a moment to steer and see which direction are we going? Are we being too ambitious or recruiting too hard? Are we able to hit these goals if we’re hitting them too easy? Should we be more ambitious next month? OK, let’s raise the bar. Just continuously evaluating and keeping each other real has helped me so much. Whenever I hit all my goals in a month, I go okay, I need to up my game now. So that’s one way which I’ve gone about it, but my husband is super supportive as well and always challenging me, but also there are things aren’t going well. I mean we had our product launch this week. It has been absolutely crazy. Yeah, I think also accepting that sometimes things weren’t going well. Failing is definitely now part of my vocabulary and I read an email the other like from someone saying I found a typo on your website, that’s the least of my concerns, you think I’m worried about a typo on a website? I’ve just found okay, no, things won’t always go well, and that doesn’t mean that I’m failing. That just means that there is a lot of things that we can continue to improve and do better, and we’re finding that in our help desk I mean getting feedback from clients even if it’s something is not working as it should, I’m just embracing that I’m just picking on like fantastic. They’re telling me what I can do better, amazing. So yeah, I think don’t feel like doing something wrong is failing or crashing. It’s all part of the journey and as an entrepreneur, you have to embrace that because otherwise you’ll just get completely burned out, I think. At the beginning I want to do everything perfectly, totally let that go. Good enough for now, is definitely my new motto.

Jeremy Au: (39:29)
Let’s just say there was a time machine and you go back to 2011, I’m so curious here, what advice would you have given yourself back then? Where were you, what were you doing and what would you have said to yourself?

Hayley Bakker: (39:41)
In 2011, I think it was just moving back from Hong Kong. I moved back to Amsterdam, I was starting my consulting career. I think, not only then, but even up until three years ago, I think my major feedback to myself would have been have more empathy. Empathy for yourself, but, especially, for others. I was quite competitive in my career. I pushed myself the hardest and that’s why I felt like I had the right to push others equally and I think that wasn’t, oftentimes, the best way to go, and I tried to push projects across the line and hit all these deadlines and I think I didn’t have enough empathy for other people’s situations, and it’s just a realization that you’re only seeing one half of a person and sometimes just taking the time to step back and ask them how they’re doing and why they’re behaving in a certain way. I would only jump to conclusions - they’re not good at their jobs, they’re just trying to be annoying. Of course, they’re not. It was sort of question of maturity right when you're early in your career. You just don't have the time to reflect on these kind of things, or at least I didn’t, and I hope others do better and now when I look back in certain situations. I really would like to go back and just…just ask them - what's going on with you? How can I help you? Rather than being judgmental and pushy in those situations instead. If we all had a bit more empathy, we’ll probably get further together.

Jeremy Au: (41:03)
One interesting dynamic is that you’ve obviously been doing a lot of self work to really understand that about yourself, to build up your self-awareness. I’m so curious, are there any particular role models or resources or books that you’ll like to recommend as part of that journey?

Hayley Bakker: (41:20)
Interesting question. Gosh, I don’t have a lot of time for reading at the moment. I do have a book club that I’m in, but whatever I join I like read 20% of the books. A little bit of a fail there and I think, yeah, when it comes to my closer circle I definitely learned a lot. I wouldn’t call it a role model. For my husband, we sit at the same table at the moment, work from home issues. You know a lot of that empathy and understanding for people is coming from him as well. I’m just seeing how he deals with people and how amazing that is. I also had a great mentor so I would always recommend and that’s why we’re for sending Girls In Tech as well. In September, we’re actually starting a new round of mentoring. Anyone wants to become one running a mentor and someone who you can stick with, again, not per say or a role model, but definitely someone to look up to someone who has like 10 or 15 years more experience, has gone through this and can look at you from the outside and really help you become even more aware of what you’re doing when it comes to one book that I really loved and not necessarily even relevant to the diversity inclusion topic at all. But it is Yuval Noah Harari. But what I love about him is just his way of thinking so differently about things and then making it really simple to understand his thought process. I think that’s really a great skill that I would definitely like to grow into his thinking out of the box, but then also being able to share that message in a kind of concise way. Amazing scope.

Jeremy Au: (42:50)
Amazing. Well, I would love to wrap this up by paraphrasing three big themes that I got from the points you shared. The first, of course, is I thank you so much for sharing your personal journey as a founder as an operator in both the corporate world but also in the technology world. And it was interesting to see that intertwined as well your own personal journey in the geography across the world. And so it’s been interesting to see that journey, and I appreciate you just being so frank about that.

Hayley Bakker: (43:17)
Thanks so much, Jeremy, I really enjoyed being here. It was awesome.

Jeremy Au: (43:20)
Yeah, the second thing I would like to share is also of course I really enjoyed our discussion around diversity inclusion. I thought it was awesome conversation around what are the myths existing in the field today, but also what are the differences that we can do to improve. And lastly, thank you so much for sharing some of the advice that you give for people to be more self aware about how to become more confident and be more out there for representation. And I think shared a different context of course, one was advise to yourself by stating earlier, you talked about some of the advice that you got and received, all that you discuss as being a corporate leader yourself, so thank you so much, Haley, for coming on show.

Hayley Bakker: (43:59)
Thank you, Jeremy.