Pluralsight and USAF: leveraging technology for Digital U
Tech workforce development company Pluralsight offers a way for organisations to upskill their teams to respond to technological changes in the modern workplace. Sam Pena is VP, North America Presales at the company. “We have created an ecosystem to provide technology leaders visibility into their workforce.” He emphasises that this is achieved through three distinct ways, the first being its tech skills platform, which allows leaders to index the skills present in their workforce and adjust their strategies accordingly.
“The second way we enable tech leaders is through our engineering analytics platform,” says Pena. “Our Flow product is intended to help engineering leaders understand how developers are working and to remove bottlenecks. Then, coupling that with the tech skills platform, you can understand whether there is an area of opportunity to enable developers to work more efficiently.” The final piece of the puzzle lies in its comprehensive professional services offering, which assists tech leaders with an implementation strategy for their ecosystems.
The company’s mission to educate individuals with technical skills has only become more vital as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic accelerates the pace of digital transformation. “As transformation accelerates, one of the most important questions is how do you enable the workforce to leverage new tools? That's where Pluralsight comes in, helping to align our customers with the skills they need.”
Since 2019 the company has been working closely with the United States Air Force as part of its Digital University initiative. “We’ve helped them launch their vision of recoding and retraining the Air Force, which they call Digital University or Digital U,” says Pena. “One of the nice things about Digital U is that because it's leveraging commercial products like Pluralsight, it's providing the Air Force the same type of training and skill development that you’d find at the tech giants.”
The ongoing project involves a first phase of indexing airmen and discovering the different competencies and roles that airmen need to be most effective in future missions, while the second phase will see a wider rollout of Digital U across the Air Force. “Helping the Air Force with their mission to upscale their entire workforce is something that we're really proud of here at Pluralsight. We’ve had close collaboration with the Air Force to make this project successful, with our professional services involved in helping them build out their skills strategies and embrace a culture of continuous learning, assessment and communication.”
As technology redefines and recreates roles in the modern workforce, Pluralsight will continue to work with the Air Force and others to help people best leverage that technology. “One of the new areas of focus in our partnership is in developing product engineers that are focused on human-centric design or full stack and mobile development,” says Pena. “This partnership with Digital U has helped us both learn from each other. It's been great to understand the Air Force’s mission and how we can best align to that, while on the flip side they’ve received an outsider perspective with a commercial partner that’s able to bring in its own expertise.”
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.