Leading up to the launch of our Role Model Campaign on International Women’s Day, we wanted to take a deeper look into company practises around diversity and inclusion (D&I). In this article we interviewed Maarten Hoogvliet and Robbin Habermehl, founders of Humanoids. They established Humanoids in 2017, with 30 years of collective experience working in the UX design and development industry. Together, they wanted to tackle the catch twenty-two that many young professionals are familiar with: needing experience to get a job, but jobs expecting you to have experience before starting to work. “You have to start somewhere, right? So how do you get this experience if no one offers you a chance to do so?”
The Humanoids solution
Robbin and Maarten went about solving this by developing a training program whereby passionate individuals could simultaneously learn the hard skills needed for UX, front and back-end development as well as gain experience in the field. It is a rigorous 6-week programme where Monday to Friday the participants study 9-17:30, and then follow this with a year traineeship where they gain experience.
At first, Robbin and Maarten used all their knowledge and experience to develop their course, and then it has been continuously improved by everyone who underwent their programme. Since UX design and development is such a fast-changing industry they are constantly updating their syllabus with the latest information and methodologies. By being so thorough they have been able to gain the trust of high-end clients. So far, they have trained 75 people and provided UX design and development services to companies such as Uber, Rabobank and the Dutch government.
No experience? No problem
Both Robbin and Maarten recognised that there was a diversity problem in the tech industry. “You see that people in tech are always male, and in managerial positions they are usually around 40 or older.” We are currently witnessing a shift in this dynamic, but one thing that is still hindering this progress is the experience gap. Women in particular are being held back by this catch twenty-two, and their program naturally works to level the inequality in the industry. When they open their job applications and specify that they don’t require applicants to have prior experience, they find that a lot of women apply for the positions. “We truly believe that this stereotype about developers being men around the age of 40 is something from the past. Women are taking up more space in the development side of programming, which requires people to be creative and think details through thoroughly.”
Diversity in technology
Diversity is a core value at Humanoids because they recognise that working with both men and women from different backgrounds enriches their working environment. Considering the gender gap in the tech industry is something companies have become more aware of in recent years, their clients are also on the lookout to hire more women. “In the past, working in programming consisted of sitting behind your computer with your hoodie on and someone tells you: ‘Hey, make this button red’ and someone else does the meeting with the client.” But now developers are working at their clients’ locations and needing to communicate with both the client and the user. It’s no longer simply shifting pixels around on a screen but demands for professionals to take on a more consulting role, and they find that this appeals to women a lot more.
Humanoids has never needed to include gender quotas or ratios in their strategic planning, because they organically implemented gender diversity from day 1. Across their entire company they have a 50-50 gender ratio. When hiring people, they focus entirely on their passion and talent that the individual possesses, and whether they would make a good company fit. They hesitate to implement policies of positive discrimination because they believe that this will only increase the prejudice against women in the field who people imagine were only hired because of their gender.
Often you find that in the workplace there is a wage gap between men and women of the same positions. This is for many reasons, including the fact that men are more likely to negotiate for higher wages. In order to ensure that not only those who are confident enough to negotiate get promotions, Humanoids initiated a wage scheme. Within this scheme they clearly defined the skill level of the employee to a certain salary, so that anyone who matches the defined skill set will be appropriately compensated. They do this to ensure that there is equal pay on all levels.
The future of tech
There is still a lot of prejudice towards women who want to begin their careers in male dominated fields such as tech. Humanoids wants to continue to expand their company and offer traineeships where people can gain the experience they need for roles in tech and software development. They want to advise other companies to “look beyond the number of years of experience and see what people can offer as human beings. You will have more people to choose from and make a better fit for your company.” Furthermore, they reiterate that companies should “invest more in the people that [they] hire.” Robbin and Maarten emphasise that when you offer adequate support services to the employees that you hire, you better equip them to work at your company and see exponential growth in their skills. Corporates have gotten comfortable with the traditional approach to UX design and web development. But Humanoids challenges them to be continuously adapting with the fast-paced industry and hire people who can keep up to date. They are the proof that when you remove the barrier of experience, you open up a world of opportunities for women and people who would have not have previously joined.
Get inspired by Humanoids Role Model,Sabine Westerdijk, here.
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