Projects@Work Voodle

On Building a Diverse Team

I just finished reading an amazing sci-fi/fantasy series called the Broken Earth trilogy from N.K. Jemisin and it has really inspired my thinking about hiring various diverse product management roles at Voodle. I came to this lovely book series by sheer “sneak wave accident”–let me explain.

Sneaker-wave forced me out of my comfort zone

Over holiday break i was reading Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in all of its native Spanish-language-delight (what a masterpiece), and between chapters placed the book down on the beach while i stood to stretch. Out of the blue and after more than 3 hours in that spot, a *much* larger wave came ashore and submerged all of my stuff, book included which was a sopping mess and “not readable” until a good week of drying out.

Taking in Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s masterwork in the original Spanish, languidly, while lounging on a beach on the Kona/Hawaii coast… minutes before a sneaker-wave appeared…

I had a few other books already on order a few days out on Amazon’s planes/trucks (If Then by Jill Lepore, Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut)–but up-next for my spouse and at my arms reach on the beach was book one of the series: The Fifth Season. I haven’t read a fantasy fiction book since The Belgariad series when i was 16! I had absolutely zero curiosity or intention to enjoy beyond passing a few moments while i mourned my soaking-wet book-of-intent…. but 1300 pages later i have to say I really, really enjoyed.

Diving into the Fifth Season, the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy from N.K Jemisin. Book two the Obelisk Gate, and book three The Stone Sky, complete the series.

Diverse POVs = Fresh Ideas & Empathy

Just a few chapters into the series I sensed the diverse voice of a non-white-male at the helm, which was instantly exhilarating and “new”, creating an experience completely unique from the “fantasy” tropes of so many other worlds (Tolkien, R.Martin, etc.):

  • Jemisin is an African-American woman and nearly all of her story’s characters are either female or gender-non-conforming. This emphasis feels as dramatically natural as Tolkien’s entirely male universe–but obviously stands in ironic contrast. I found myself thinking between chapters of what might 2000 years of western canon literature have told via entirely female voice/characters?
  • She alternates between a 3rd and 1st person narrative voice from multiple characters–including using a 1st person voice that speaks to the reader as “you” (I don’t think i’ve ever read anything like this before, is there precedent in literature? There must be? but it was new to me!) And without giving away anything, there are multiple-folding-twists throughout the series that connect and pivot and transform the reader’s understanding of the narrator–clever shit! Very, clever.
  • The richness of The Stillness world is elaborate in historical details but always in vital ways that drive the story and characters; i really felt like i was living in the world she created, while 3-4 seasons of hopefully fantastic television-writing-worth of drama was taking place. I was exhausted and relieved after powering through the series… just reading this much creative thinking was exhausting, i can not imagine CREATING this world!

The unique narrative POVs that she brings to her writing created for me a more profound sense of empathy and connection to the characters. Hearing/seeing different types of characters made me feel for them, and identify with them, even in ways in which as a cis-gender-white-male I have never really felt connected to “lords” and “magicians” and “elves”, all of whom were created in the image and spirit of their white-male authors?

Diversity in Software Product Management Teams?

… which had be thinking about my continuing understanding of just how important diversity of POV and experience is in forming high performing teams in all walks-of-life, including in my industry building software.

We started voodle in late 2019, before the worldwide COVID pandemic had accelerated what we already felt was coming–a dramatic disruption in how people work and collaborate using mobile devices and asynchronous short-video.  We spent 2020 organizing ourselves as a fully remote team, shipping our mvp app on web/ios/android, and listening to thousands of users and their early-product feedback. 

Whenever we open ourselves up to diverse POVs, we are better. Incorporating diverse POVs, leads us to better solutions to problems, to greater relevance with our diverse customers, and ultimately to success in all of our goal metrics.

We are searching for product experience team members that have a passion for our mission and demonstrated excellence in skill areas related to product management and user experience craft.  We are assembling our team with a mix of diverse background experiences and prior domain expertise, aiming for a wide-ranging point-of-view.  We are not looking narrowly for a specific candidate, rather, we are recruiting a TEAM.

This “matrix” is my revamped idea of the WIDE gamut of talent that might be a good fit for us to build out our Product Management team/capability at Voodle, in Jan 2021. This “aha” moment (where i realized we needed to change the nature of our job search, to get to a more diverse set of candidates for the role(s)) came as a direct result of my reading N.K. Jemisin – THANK YOU N.K!

This led me today monday to spend the day tearing apart a somewhat narrowly crafted JD we have been recruiting against for 6 months, for a proverbial “chief product officer”. I’ve been really unhappy with the lack of diversity in the candidate pool, and the search has yet to yield a hire. I think our search was too narrow. The Broken Earth trilogy directly inspired me to break apart the JD into a new “matrixed” search which more broadly seeks talent across early-to-late career continuum of product managers.

We are recruiting TEAM MEMBERS.  If you are drawn to our mission and think you could add value as the CPO, or as a college hire IC — or anything in between!… we’d love to hear from you.

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