In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Raghu Gollamudi.
What happens when a Chief Technology Officer tackles the issue of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)? This is exactly what Raghu Gollamudi, CEO of Integris and Shippable. As CEO at Included, Raghu is on a mission to prove that DEI isn’t a tax, PR issue, or feel-good checkbox, but an opportunity to build more competitive businesses.has been doing. As an expert in software development, big data, and process improvement, he is bringing engineering technology and frameworks to a typically political conversation in order to help companies hire, promote and retain a more robustly diverse workforce. Prior to Included, Raghu acted as CTO & co-founder at two successful SaaS startups in the US,
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I came from a humble background, growing up in India, where family is very important. My mother was a school teacher, so she loved to share knowledge. My dad was an absolute go-getter in his corporate career. I really feel like I got a healthy mix of both personality types that can be drawn to my success today, as I’ve always been very independent and curious.
I was always a builder, I loved to create things and be self-sufficient. In fact, when I was a teenager my uncle in the US sent me a Walkman. I loved it, but I really wanted the volume to be louder, so while my dad was out at work I hotwired the Walkman to our family TV. I was right, it was loud and it was awesome, but long story short I blew out the fuse on the TV and my dad was furious. I wanted to make it up to him, so I walked myself all the way into town, convinced the TV repairman to take me as an apprentice and learned how to fix the TV myself. That gives you a taste of the type of person I’ve been since the beginning.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My wife is one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She supports me, but she also runs a business of her own, and she’s great at it. She works in a very male-dominated industry, and it’s inspiring to watch her break barriers, and share ideas with each other on how we can both improve. She keeps me grounded, and I’m forever thankful to have her.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always been a big believer in “You reap what you sow.” My parents taught me the value of hard work from a very young age. This quote also really emphasizes that good things take time. When you plant something, it doesn’t just sprout overnight, it takes time to consistently grow whatever it is you are working towards, so stick with it and never give up.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Relentless — For me, relentless is an understatement. When I see a problem, I want to fix it, and I want to fix it well. I want to create solutions with deep purpose, and a relentless work ethic has led me to create three successful software solutions that are making an impact in various industries.
- Creative — I enjoy problem-solving. But beyond that, I want to solve problems in ways that haven’t been done before. We are living in a time where technology can really work in our favor if we allow it, and leverage it to do amazing things. That was really the idea behind my current company, Included. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have always been an issue within organizations, but there has never been a technological solution out there to solve it, thus prompting me to go after this idea.
- Building Great Teams — One of the best parts of leading companies is building your own teams. I’ve benefited from incredible teams creating outstanding solutions that bring new ideas to life. And throughout my career, I’ve seen that as humans we accomplish so much more when we pull together.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive social impact on our society. To begin, what problems are you aiming to solve?
The main issue we are solving is helping companies prioritize DEI data and equity practices so that they reduce their cost per hire and increase the speed of time-to-hire. Our customers are looking at our creative approach as an enabler to their cause. So not only are we helping organizations create job opportunities, but we are helping them fill those roles, and keep the quality talent from walking out the door after they’ve invested time and money into training them.
How do you think your technology can address this?
Included is an AI powered platform that gives companies the information they need to create an equitable and inclusive hiring process. We use data to identify specific areas where businesses can take further action to remove any potential roadblock from accomplishing this goal, and we define the steps that can be taken to create improvement. It is the first DEI tech solution for corporations striving to be people-first in every aspect of their business.
How it works is our AI based DEI recruitment engine alerts the right person within an organization, at the right time to apply proactive measures that target the precise stage, org, team, and/or stakeholders surrounding key areas of drop off by underrepresented groups within the diversity recruiting funnel. To date, Included has analyzed over tens of millions of scenarios and our customers have uncovered an average of 496 bias and DEI process problems instantly with customized data and actionable steps.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
In my personal career I saw that DEI was prioritized for whatever the length of a training video was. I would leave that training feeling inspired and impacted, but then that was it. There was never a follow up from that point on. No active measurements that I saw organizations taking to keep quality talent of diverse backgrounds in their organizations. So in order for DEI to truly be prioritized within an organization and make an impact, it must be beyond the initial onboarding.
As someone who is naturally drawn to problem-solving, I’ve created and built solutions for other areas of the business in need of efficiency, velocity, and quality improvement primarily within the Engineering department since that is where I have been a leader and am originally trained. At my previous company Integris for example, I architected a big data solution for enterprise-level data privacy. Similar to the people and demographic data challenges in the DEI space — data privacy solutions had to address an overwhelming amount of data with safe and sophisticated ways of organizing and reporting out that information.
When I first brought up the idea of applying engineering leadership and methodologies to people data for DEI with my co-founders Chandan Golla and Laura Close, they were very intrigued and that’s when the discussions of what value we might be able to create really began.
How do you think this might change the world?
The bottom line is a diverse workforce means better services and products created for a wide customer base range, equaling more money in business’ pockets. Quality sourcing efforts to bring in diverse hires will enhance company culture, lower hiring costs, and improve overall retention. And best of all, it creates more job opportunities and allows others to gain a broader perspective.
Many potential customers can’t fathom just how technology can solve a problem as complex as DEI, because we are the first solution to even address it. People wonder about ROI and how long it’s going to take to see tangible results, To that I say, speak with our early adopter customers. They are over the moon about the demographic trends and areas of opportunity we were able to instantly surface once Included integrated with their ATS. This was information they didn’t have, even with full-time diversity leadership, specialized recruiters and people analysts.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)
- Identify your passions and let that drive you — This looks different for everyone, but for me, it was my passion for people, and seeing others succeed. As an immigrant to the US I’ve had to work hard for every one of my achievements. Very hard. And it bothers me that women, people of color, black and brown communities in the US, LGBTQIA+ and many other communities are working just as hard or more and experiencing barriers to success that are unrelated to their hard work and creativity. I know what the drive to succeed feels like and as a people and engineering leader, you’re always focused on unblocking as many high performers as you can. That’s my passion.
- Never underestimate the power of research — You might have identified a problem that you are passionate about, but sadly that’s not enough to build your case. Do your due diligence and take the time to research how others experience this problem and what the economic impact of the problem is. It will help you build your case for your sales and marketing efforts down the road, and you will thank yourself for that data. Statistics will always talk and be the driving force of your “why”.
- Set small tangible goals for quick wins — Rather than one big launch to work towards, break down your work into small increments. This way it’s not so overwhelming, and you can allow yourself to enjoy the process.
- Consistently go back to your “why” — I go back to our customer stories and scenarios all of the time we’re talking to CEOs, and heads of Diversity, Talent Acquisition, and HR who want to grow diversity recruitment and retention they just are operating in the dark and it’s frustrating. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind of building a business and product, that you can easily lose your why. Revisit it constantly, especially on the bad days. It’s critical to remember why you are doing this in the first place.
- Never get complacent — So you’ve created a successful product, that’s amazing! Now what’s the future of that product? How can you adapt it to the needs of customers in five years, even ten? Never stop looking for opportunities where you can make even more of an impact.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Everyone brings value…everyone. It doesn’t matter their background or the color of their skin, gender, sexuality, ability or anything else. Differences are what have led us to incredible breakthroughs in our society, technologies, and policies. Your unique differences can be the reason for a breakthrough so raise your voice, share your perspective and be proud of the ways in which you add value.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would have to go with the Dalai Lama. He really values peace and unity, and he stands up for what he believes in whole-heartedly, he never gave up, which is something I really admire.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.