CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 48

Like many companies, Alcatel-

could see the big strides the Chinese

agree with that so I will just keep

Lucent has articulated a corporate

were making in areas like online

quiet," doesn't do anybody any good

commitment to diversity. Our

music and electronic marketplaces.

- not least of all customers awaiting

workforce - 62,000 strong - is a

And as I dealt with Asia-Pacific

solutions to their problems.

truly global mix, with employees

customers, it became pretty clear to

representing more than 100

me that I was not the best person to

nationalities.

be designing some service package

I know firsthand just how diverse
Alcatel-Lucent can be. I'm an Indian
woman who has worked at AlcatelLucent offices in my native Canada,
as well as in China, France, and the
United States. As vice president and
general manager of the company's
2G/3G wireless product division,
my direct reports hail from Canada,

for Korean teenagers. I knew I needed
people who could understand those
needs far better than I ever could
because of their shared experiences.
Had I stayed within an environment
largely dominated by people with a
North American cultural viewpoint,
we would never have come up with
the kinds of products that we needed.

China, India, France, Germany, the

I've championed diversity in my

United Kingdom, and the United

role at Alcatel-Lucent because I

States. They are men and women,

want to be sure to give diversity a

young and old, and of various

voice, so to speak - and that's what

educational levels.

I try to promote internally. Giving

I know that people within Alcatel-

diversity a voice starts with letting

Best Practices for
Turning Diversity Into a
Differentiator
My push to give diversity a voice
starts with my own team. As I
mentioned, my team members don't
have a lot in common in terms of
background or experiences, and
because they work in far-flung
locations, they don't see one another
all that often.
How do you get this diversity to work
for you? Over time, I've discovered
several best practices for capitalizing
on the makeup of a diverse group.
They are:

people know that being different

Solicit all opinions: Don't wait

is OK, even desirable. I want every

for people to put their hands up

person to ask, "What is it about me

and volunteer their ideas. Too

that makes me unique?" And I want

often during group discussions the

them to think about the experiences

louder people tend to dominate the

they've had because of their gender,

conversation and make it difficult

cultural background, or educational

for the quieter sorts to vocalize

experience. The more diverse a group,

their ideas. So I absolutely make

the greater the set of experiences

a point of gathering ideas from

from which to draw ideas for new and

everyone ― preferably in advance

improved products and new ways

of big discussions but if that hasn't

Through my career experiences,

to develop and deploy them. I want

happened then during a meeting, or

I have come to understand how

people to understand this, and feel

afterwards.

important it is to tap into employees'

confident and comfortable sharing

diverse backgrounds, be they

new insights they've arrived at

cultural, gender based, generational,

because of their experiences.

Lucent, as elsewhere, absolutely
recognize the value of diversity.
However, I don't believe many
companies yet understand how to
realize that value. That's the hard
part, the real challenge companies
face if they're serious about making
diversity more than a warm and
fuzzy social platitude served up in the
annual report.

or geographical. Much of this I came

Create comfortable
environments: To make diversity
benefit the larger team, you

We have to make sure employees

sometimes have to allow people

realize that if they see something

to work in homogeneous units in

differently, they need to say they

their countries. Workforces in a

While living and working in China

see something differently. To have

country often share an educational

from 2007 to 2010, for example, I

them thinking, "Oh, I don't exactly

background and a generation, not

to realize through my overseas
assignments.

CTO Straight Talk | 48



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CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2

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