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Diversity and Inclusion: Utopia or Dystopia?

Diversity and Inclusion: Utopia or Dystopia?

Dan Sodergren lets rip on Coding for kids, Power Lists, Psychometric Testing, AI and the perils of ‘Being Ubered.’

Dan Sodergren swears - a lot. He’s very sweary. But block out the expletives, focus in on what he’s really saying and it’s clear you’re in the presence of a man with some serious things to say. And he likes to say them!

Dan describes himself as Digital Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Tech Specialist and Futurist. He’s also a husband, a father and an avid Man City supporter. That’s a lot of plates to spin, but when you meet him you instantly see how he does it.

In the second of my blog pieces on Diversity and Inclusion, I wanted to get Dan’s opinion on how, from his perspective, it is handled in Manchester tech businesses today and how minority groups are managed in the workplace today.

We began by talking about family, as we both have young children. Dan’s seven-year-old daughter is learning Cantonese from her friends at school but he would also love her to learn to code.

“We should be doing more for our kids and setting them up for the future,” he said. “Being able to code will be as useful to people in the future as MS Office skills are today.”

Blockchains and Bitcoins

Dan is outspoken when it comes to technology shifts that might fundamentally change the way we work and live our lives today. “In ten years time we might be looking back and saying, what was the point of that? Most jobs performed by humans will be replaced by machines and computers and if predictions are correct, with things like Blockchain, banks might not even exist. And if we all buy Bitcoins now, what will our actual currency be worth in the future?”

I was intrigued to know what Dan thought about power lists - lists like Women in Tech for example - and whether we need a list of people from all backgrounds as a means to tackle diversity?

“Yes, I think we do need them today but hopefully not in the future. When there are no more lists of this sort, that’s when we’ll know we’re getting things right. But for now, we need lists of powerful women in technology just as much as we need power lists for all minority groups.”

Dan continued: “I bet that if we look at power lists of people in tech around the world, they would not be full of people from different races, genders, religions, backgrounds, sexuality or disabilities, would it? We’re ten years off that, at least.”

So how can we measure diversity?

Dan passionately believes that the bottom line is where you will see results. “Is counting the amount of people you have in your organisation from different backgrounds, races, religions, sexual persuasion the correct way to measure diversity? At the moment I think it’s the only way, but not in the future. In the future true diversity will be measured by success and the bottom line.”

Dan references Psychometric tests as a very reliable tool for recruitment. “The key is to measure diversity of thought and every company should consider using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The irony is that most start-ups fail because the team isn’t strong enough or have the same values. There are lots of Psychometric tests out there that can help measure these things. How can we measure this to be effective? I don’t know the answer, but I have a feeling that AI has a lot to do with it.”

For his next start up Dan is adopting a highly unusual approach: he is launching it before he has come up with any idea of what it will be. But diversity is at its core.

“I’m only employing people based on their psychometric tests which gives me the results that show the greatest diversity. I’m creating a dream team of incredibly diverse people and then we’re going to brainstorm the idea. That’s how much I believe in diversity of thought.”

The role that schools and the media play

Dan is clear that schools have a huge part to play when it comes to breaking down barriers in Diversity for Technology. “Education is the biggest barrier we face. At UTC Media City we have 102 feeder schools, so it is a huge pool to feed from and we have a very diverse portfolio of kids. Not only different backgrounds but different races, religions, male and female.”

But he is also convinced that the perception of what a coder is or looks like is putting some kids off a career in tech. “In TV shows like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Start Up’ coders are white, well-educated and a bit geeky which is insane! But that’s the narrative that people are told. I think the media - as well as our schools - needs to be pushing a different message. I’m not saying that we will definitely be more successful but if we show what can be done by being diverse right from the outset - show it by doing it - then maybe others will follow.”

He added: “Look at people with the right values, like Code Computerlove, like the Co-op, The Federation, they’re all creative and have the right values. But it comes from the founders who set the tone for the culture and ultimately how inclusive they are. That determines how diverse they are as a business.”

“Another great example is a company like Social Chain whose founder Steve Bartlett comes across as very genuine and likeable which also reflects the business. But what’s interesting is that they are not really a company in the traditional sense; they are a collection of individuals around a shared idea that are organically diverse and I think this is a future blue print for how start-ups and businesses can flourish.”

“The danger is that so many companies now try to manufacture a diverse culture. They have bean bags, chipboard on the walls, allow dogs and table-tennis tables in the office - perhaps there’s a real danger that it becomes more attractive to be in work than it is to go home! And it could just create a culture that is less diverse.”

Don't get "Ubered!"

According to Dan, if you don’t have true diversity of thought in a business, you’re in danger of being ‘Ubered’, meaning the business model can change overnight through tech. “Look at law as an example,” he comments. “In ten years time there will be a different type of business offering legal advice as a service and it will be delivered through non-traditional technology.” In other words, it will be ‘Ubered’.

“Law firms might argue that won’t be the case, but already this is happening in different industries. Take Push Doctor as an example, they are changing the way medical advice is delivered using tech. In fact, a law firm has recently set up in Newcastle which employs more developers than they do lawyers. The difference is AI which I firmly believe will replace so many jobs in the future.”

Speaking to Dan was certainly an eye-opener - as well as being highly entertaining. Many will take issue with his views, some may think his vision of the future to be a trifle fanciful. But I think you take the words of a man like Dan Sodergren’s lightly at your peril.

Oscar Technology is an award-winning recruitment agency delivering the brightest talent across the IT and Technology markets. We are committed to helping our clients achieve and go beyond basic diversity requirements when it comes to recruiting Technology based staff for their businesses. To find out more visit

Sam Mikkelsen is Client Solutions Director for Oscar Technology. Sam is responsible for developing Oscar’s existing client relationships as well as ensuring new clients receive the best solutions to suit their business from day one. Sam also has responsibility for initiating new solutions and service lines and has a strategic view on all things recruitment, regularly attending industry events so that Oscar are continually at the bleeding edge of ever-evolving recruitment innovation.

Sam has worked in recruitment since 1996 working for one of the biggest IT recruiters in Europe and went on to lead the startup of two IT recruitment businesses. Prior to joining Oscar, Sam spent 3.5 years working internally with a software company helping them to launch a web-based software solution to media and advertising agencies throughout the UK, Australia and the US, giving him a strong understanding of the internal workings of the technology industry. If you’re interested in contributing to future blogs or would like to get involved in any of our events for 2018 please get in touch with Sam directly 07854 245 390 /

Diversity & Inclusion in Tech Workshops

Bringing together some of the most prominent minds in diversity in Manchester to create an outcome led series of workshops covering: Education, Recruitment and Retention.

This is not just another diversity in tech event - we want to progress the conversation and have a tangible output. We need your help to do it!

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