From zero to (anti?)hero: Building a diverse product team from the ground up - Samia Suys, Cheqroom - Rocket Day Talk Summary -

Pierre-Antoine Roy
May 31, 2022
3
min read
Rocket Day

Our Rocket Day talks began with a blasting talk from the eclectic, idealist and multiple-minded Samia Suys. Our founder, Timoté Geimer opened our panel by talking on how the product world has evolved over the years and our growth. Following Timoté, Samia introduced who she is and her adventure as Head of Product at CHEQROOM. She then elaborated on the importance of diversity in (product) teams. A really interesting talk about how gender and races are perceived in the product world. Although being a shy person, Samia does it fearlessly as she’s committed in advocating for queer rights. 

In case you missed our Rocket day, here’s a short summary of Samia’s talk at the Rocket Day, which she entitled “From zero to (anti?)hero - Building a diverse product team from the ground up.”

Samia offered us a really personal outline of how she thinks about work and opened herself to the attendees. She then gave us a brief overview of her career, what she did at CHEQROOM and what she has experienced in her career.

Samia showcased how important diversity in the product world is in all of its forms, could it be skills, people, products and teams. For example, there’s an infinite range of skills you can find, and many people that handle those differently. It is up to you to choose the right skill sets to form a team that can solve any problem.

For Samia, a diverse team also means parity in gender and race. After showing us that a whopping 60% of men work in the product world, the rest being women at 37% and others at 3% (ProductPlan’s 2021 State of Product Management Report, U.S based figures). This outlines the unequal gender diversity in the product world, as we see that there are discrepancies in the current product teams. Even if it would be sexist of you not to hire white men because most of the product world consists of this race and genre, Samia says that she tries to stay mindful of this when hiring teams with diversity in mind.

Want to build a diverse product team? Samia has tips on how to get to it: start with yourself, be aware about who you are, and know that there are millions of different people in the world. Start by getting to know them, embrace their differences, respect everyone and grow with them. Offer your team an atmosphere where they all feel equal, treated with the same rules regardless of anything that might differentiate them. Therefore, you’ll build a different product, the fruit of a wide range of ideas and knowledge coming from different points of view.

Samia has a lot of experience in terms of building teams. She says that there needs to be a long search. In order to have diversity, she suggests checking your own bias when you’re talking on a professional level. When looking for great minds to join your team, try not to only leverage your own network. Define exciting plans, but don’t blindly stick to them if the company takes another direction. In the end, do not be afraid to speak up; it is all what a diverse team should be about. It represents a working team free of any bias nor difference. Working on the same level is Samia’s belief of a team delivering fabulous results.

Her closing thoughts are in the form of recommendations to the attendees. She shares her best reads from product people on LinkedIn (Ronke Majekodunmi, Deepa Daniels, Julie Zhuo and Clement Iradukunda). She also invites us to check her booklist (available below). A clever way for those who got hooked on her subject, and would like to dig deeper into building the diversity amongst teams Samia talks about. For the most part tackling feminism and racism subjects.

More than simply debating about product teams, Samia articulated her talk for us listeners to be aware about everyone’s differences. For her, building a diverse product team happens when you combine respect and open-mindedness. Her last slide says in big letters “Everyone makes mistakes”. Samia wants to finish by saying everyone should learn from their failures. Although product people are superheroes, they’re not machines. Being in the tech product industry means learning everyday, as the field evolves constantly each day. Let's be unbiased, and stay willing to learn from everyone regardless of everything, with a safe space everyone can freely use and work with!

Want to see Samia’s entire talk? Here it is, but there’s more; every talk is on our YouTube channel!