Niv Lobo Gajiwala
Humans of Tech - Brian Douglas
Meet Brian Douglas.
We chat about how he found his way to healthtech, his passion for driving diversity & inclusion and some incredible insights on how teams can get started on their own DEI journeys!
What's your story and what led you to healthtech and recruitment?
I studied pre med in university - as a kid, when you think about helping people your only idea is a doctor. When I was trying to take a break after college, I thought how can I take all this experience as a researcher and apply that in a different role? While interviewing for an analyst role the person asked me if I was actually thinking about or ever interested in recruiting and that sparked something for me. My passion came from taking people's ideas, taking people's passions, taking their skills, and then mapping them out to the role that's the perfect match for them. And they didn't even know that this is what they wanted to do and then they land and they are absolutely in love with it.
While working in-house, one of my clients recommended me to Blink Health, which was a pharmaceutical company within the space I wanted to be in and after going in after a meeting it was my first opportunity that I was able to combine both my passions within recruitment and having some heart and soul on hand and helping people when it came to the health tech space. It was full circle to my original passion and I’m excited to continue to build on this path and make an impact on a global scale.
Diversity initiatives are a big part of your career. How did it get started and how did it snowball?
I was lucky to have gone to an incredibly diverse high school in Long Island where I was identified as a diversity ambassador. In my professional career, this actually happened when I moved in-house and I noticed there wasn't really a place for people of minority backgrounds and it was important to have a group of people where they can relate and have those conversations, educate, and continue to change people. It was a long journey and it took over a year for the CEO to understand why it’s even important but it really refined my chops and my knowledge and everything D&I in order to figure out, how can I take somebody who doesn't believe in it, and get them to understand it and meet them where they are? …to see the benefits of it. And of course at this point tying it to the money right? How do diverse companies produce better? How do diverse companies tie it to their brand?
And that was my first experience where we then built out an LGBTQI+ ERG and the first black ERG in the organization, both of which were thriving and it led to incredible retention. This journey then followed me and became a part of who I am, I was like if this is not something you believe in this is not the place for me. And when you get me you get diversity and inclusion.
The ERG’s promoted open conversations with the women in tech organizations because it encouraged a safe space. But when you're speaking in a vacuum, you can't really influence change because you're not teaching anyone new about the experiences. So getting that organization to open up not only created a safe space but opened up new events that they can bring those individuals in.
Which brings me to the next step where I became the head of D&I at an organization where we started off at 3% makeup of diversity inclusion, and when I left, we were at 49%. It's a lot, I could talk about this for days.
What's your advice for startups that are looking to drive D&I early on?
My advice tends to start depending on the size of the organization. If you're starting from day one, my thing is to build it and make it important from day one. If you do that, and if you truly believe in it, then everything you create has D&I embedded into it.
But it’s never too late for you to change course quickly. For other organizations that are mid size when making this realization a lot of people tend to focus on the wrong things and think let’s go big, let's do the Pride Parade, let’s participate in a Black Lives Matter protest. And those things are important. Yes, but what's really important, what really changes and what really speaks to your dedication is the small things that you do every single day that really impacts how people feel in your organization and whether or not they are included, seen and celebrated. Don’t do short term fixes but focus on the bigger picture and find things that you can do in a consistent way and not just a huge one big event - it leads to your people not believing that you actually believe in those incentives.