With the Women in IT Summit USA on the horizon, DiversityQ sat down with Tasha Jones to learn about the importance of keeping pace with technology, the effect of COVID on the industry and why AI will not speed up D&I.
Adopting and adapting to new technologies and attracting more diverse talent will be increasingly important as part of the post-COVID shift in the world of work.
Tasha Jones, the founder of Twenty39, a provider of data-informed consulting solutions, believes that those with adaptive personalities have more flexibility to develop their skills in line with the fast pace of change.
“This doesn’t mean you have to learn how to code; instead, learn about the types of platforms that align with your area of focus and the alternative ways for engaging in the spaces you operate,” she explains.
For employers, it will mean not having to constantly hire new people to adjust to technological developments.
“There will always be a need for specialists – the building blocks of the technical systems,” she adds. “But, having the right mix of core specialists and those with adaptive personalities and diverse skill sets is what employers should be looking for.”
Attracting diverse talent
Jones recommends organisations expand their search tools into non-traditional channels to attract more people from diverse backgrounds when searching for new talent. These include platforms such as MindSumo that allows the crowdsourcing of ideas and responses.
“What better way to get a potential candidate that has the expertise and an example of how they would apply it,” she suggests.
Another option is the start-up platform, Localized, which can help to source those in locations that don’t have access to a company’s traditional way of recruiting. Companies could also consider partnerships with universities and non-profit organisations, such as Girls Who Code, to ensure a pipeline of diverse talent.
Data is everything
Jones was inspired to start her own company through her passion for problem-solving, being creative and helping people and businesses to realise their potential. A US Navy veteran and former senior-level federal civilian, she has extensive experience working with data in the U.S. Federal and Defense market.
It has taught her that “data is the centre of everything”. Information influences pretty much all we do and how we think. With insightful data, you can figure out and anticipate so much.
“When you combine people working in tech with the data in the right way, you get diverse experiences, cultures and learning methods. Then, by leveraging the technology to enable different insights and decision making, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.”
As a result of her exposure to different functional disciplines in technology and the complementary skills supporting it, Jones focuses her business on data, people, and technology.
While AI and machine learning will change the future workforce, improving diversity and inclusion as a part of it will be slow.
“Even if you have diverse people participating in these products and projects, the systems that exist have, unfortunately, been injected with bias, racism and stereotypes,” she explains. “So, it’s going to take time to come up with the appropriate techniques to impact that positively.”
Her recipe for achieving a successful career in technology involves a mix of critical, strategic thinking and technical acumen. It is a mistake to suggest that people should do one or the other. The critical thinking aspect often gets pushed to one side because it is not as tangible as you see with technology.
“You have to have critical thinking as it helps you to work smarter,” Jones argues. “For example, someone may give you a problem and, instead of immediately going into ‘solutioning’, if you look at the question in the right way, you may be able to disqualify it and not have to do the work in the first place.”
As part of the changes being wrought due to coronavirus, she has noticed how “more people are dipping their toes into the entrepreneurial world.” Research has also shown that businesses have seen a significant return on investment by leveraging independent professionals.
“Depending on the type of business, it can be more beneficial to have a significant cohort of independent professionals so that the business can be nimble and expand and contract according to need,” she adds. “I think that’s going to become the norm over time.”
New service offering
Jones certainly practises what she preaches, having recently transitioned her own company services. She previously focused primarily on technology offerings in government contracting but now prioritises helping independent professionals and micro-businesses navigate the complexities of creating scalable revenue-generating business through the use of data, strategy, and smart automation and integration technologies.
“I got into the habit of doing what was expected,” she reveals. “At the end of last year, I was planning to grow my business, take out loans and hire people and do what contractors do. But I had so much stress I couldn’t sleep, and I realised I didn’t want to manage people and spend my time in that way. Instead, she decided to turn what she had previously been doing for free – coaching and advising people – into a service offering.
“I love helping people to realise how their data can tell them what is and isn’t working,” she says. “Stop spending your money on that or stop going to this event because your return on investment isn’t there, but increase this activity because you’re realising an increased 20% client transition rate”. Now my business consists of activities that bring me happiness.
“It will also enable me, as I get older, to be able to work from anywhere so that I can travel and have the lifestyle of not being stuck in one location.”
Register to hear more from Tasha Jones at our Women in It Summit USA on April 28.