Learn more from the women working at WillowTree on the WillowTree InHerSight page.
Tell us more about WillowTree, Inc.
Founded in 2008, WillowTree, Inc. is a mobile design and development agency whose mission is to bring together a team of smart, motivated people who take pride in their work and strive to be the best in mobile. We foster a collaborative environment that focuses on continuous learning and unlimited opportunities to have a big impact; and, of course, we also ship lots of code!
With about 140 employees and locations in Charlottesville, VA, and Durham, NC our team works with companies like Zappos, PepsiCo, HBO, and Mattel to solve real-world UX strategy, design, and technical problems. There's always something new and exciting to work on, and the results of our efforts get shipped to users' devices every day.
How does WillowTree think about hiring for diversity?
In the technology industry you almost go into it fighting an uphill battle for diversity. What I like about WillowTree is that diversity is openly discussed. People here want a diverse team and everyone is on board hiring for diversity. A big focus is hiring for cultural fit and core values. When I’m doing interview training for our internal team I stress that cultural fit doesn’t mean we are hiring people similar to ourselves. It means we are hiring someone that would thrive in our culture. That means people who are self-starters and want to take ownership of problems as well as opportunities.
Hiring people with diverse backgrounds and experiences increases your ability to generate creative ideas and solve problems. We serve a diverse group of clients that are looking for a fresh perspective from us.
Are there ways you are supporting women in tech inside or outside your company?
When I began my career, the company that hired me had classes teaching the new developers, people straight out of school, how they wanted them to code. That class was probably 45% female, a lot of the instructors were female and the whole training program was run by a woman. It never felt like women in tech was a problem. It pains me to see how it has gone backward. We do try to support and provide sponsorship and mentorship to organizations that are encouraging women in technology and engineering fields. We provide financial and other support to our local chapter of Girl Develop It and Charlottesville Women in Tech.
One of my favorite examples is our ongoing support for Pearl Hacks. Pearl Hacks is an annual all-female hackathon hosted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Its goal is to create an encouraging environment for women of all skill levels to pursue their interests in technology. It is a great way for women to see if computer science is an area of interest worth pursuing for them.
How did WillowTree come to support Pearl Hacks?
We were interviewing a senior at UNC and this was really her initiative. She was a super go-getter and organized the first event. She asked us if we wanted to be a part of it and we said absolutely. We sent all female engineers down to be mentors the first year and the students’ feedback to us was that we shouldn’t feel we needed to do that - that there should be men there too.
When it came time to sponsor the second year we had a participant tell us that one of our mentors from the first year changed her whole outlook. She was really getting bummed with one of her professors who was telling her that she wasn’t cut out for computer science and that she should change majors. She was on the verge of doing that when one of our mentors talked to her at Pearl Hacks and encouraged her to stick it out and not let that professor intimidate her. The student emailed us hoping we would sponsor the event again and said that little encouragement is what kept her going. She stuck with CS another year and was now enjoying it and feeling confident. That was really powerful.
Do you have executive level support for diversity initiatives at WillowTree?
Our executive team is all in on creating diversity in the workplace. We have a refined hiring process and we never change our hiring standards for the sake of diversity. Our process is more about recruiting a diverse group of people and seeing who makes it through the interview process. We have grown from 30 employees to 140 employees over the last three years. We are glad that we have been mindful of diversity from the beginning. We work with local universities, high schools and other groups to increase the number of under-represented minorities being exposed to the possibilities of a future in computer science.
Get more of the inside scoop from the women working at WillowTree on the WillowTree InHerSight page.
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