Felicitas Coulibaly | Mambu

Felicitas Coulibaly | Mambu

If we had a magic wand, we would wave it in the general direction of the tech industry, utter something along the lines of "Expelliarmus" and get rid of the ED&I issue for good. But the fact remains there are no magic wands as much as there are no "quick fixes" when it comes to solving this complex and multi-faceted matter.

"The problem doesn’t actually start at the business: it starts with the early years where you need to be encouraging people from all backgrounds to go for all sorts of opportunities." explains this week's blog guest, Felicita Coulibaly. 

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME TODAY. SO, TO BEGIN WITH, IT WOULD BE GREAT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR ROLE AT MAMBU.

I’ve been at Mambu coming up to 2 years now and I’ve built the Global Insides Sales function which in layman’s terms is looking after pipe gen, booking sales meetings, qualifying opportunities and so forth. I’ve had a really good time so far. Mambu has been going through major growth and has scaled up rapidly since last year. As well as looking after the business development functions, I also work really closely with marketing partners to ensure BD excellence within the EMEA region. It has been an interesting time over this last year with everything going on in the tech industry, but we’re still growing, customers are still expanding, and there’s lots of work to do in the finance sector, especially in modernisation!

I ALSO SAW ON YOUR WEBSITE THAT MAMBU IS A KEY CHAMPION FOR DE&I, I’D LOVE TO KNOW A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT HOW YOU CELEBRATE DIVERSITY? 

What I’ve noticed about Mambu is that there is a genuine care about the employees and, on a parallel, the employees equally care about DE&I. So there are a lot of things that we do that are not necessarily even organised by the “officials” but are prompted by employees who have the drive to organise events. 
We have Cultural Ambassadors in every office at Mambu as well as remotely. These people look after the culture from all angles so that may be from organising events or sending care packages during COVID to also ensuring that our panels and events include internal and external speakers. 
When it comes to DE&I, for International Women’s Day and Black History Month, we run events that show a combined effort and visibility from both the business and the employees which is really good. 

I LOVE THE IDEA OF CULTURAL AMBASSADORS. MAMBU CLEARLY HAS A GREAT STRUCTURE THAT’S BEEN IMPLEMENTED SO WHEN YOU THINK OF THE TECH BUSINESS’, WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY COULD BE DOING MORE OF IN REGARD TO DIVERSE HIRING? 

I think it’s tricky, it comes down to both talent attraction and making sure you get the best for the role and you’re never going to hire just to tick a box. The problem doesn’t actually start at the business: it starts with the early years where you need to be encouraging people from all backgrounds to go for all sorts of opportunities.
I think businesses are starting to and should continue to partner up with universities and schools. Having employees during volunteering days visit schools and explain the range of tech jobs that are available. I didn’t have that when I was growing up - I didn’t know that Fintech was a thing as it was never discussed. I always assumed that people who work in IT had IT degrees for example. 
There are so many assumptions that people make depending on their background but by reaching out to different communities, you’re ensuring that everyone is included. That’s what I think businesses could be doing more of: being proactive in sharing what the tech world is like. We’ve recently implemented charity days and I think it would be awesome if we could do more like this. From a business leadership point of view, I believe this should be really encouraged because even though it may not have an immediate consequence as we have talent pools ready and available, the long-term effect would be so impactful. For every job that we put out, we probably always get 80% male versus 20% female applications. And, if you go deeper with it, it gets even worse.
I would urge companies, particularly in tech, to get involved a little bit more in some shape or form through community work, particularly for schools. Because you can see that big consultancies will go to certain universities, like Oxford or Harvard, and pick the top of the crop. But, there are so many schools and universities that have equally brilliant talent and they deserve a chance.
I remember I went to a Black People and Banking Event in London a few years back and there was a lady on the panel in her early 20s. She just started her career in finance and asset management and she said the school she went to in South East London had told her that there was “no way you’ll ever work north of the river”. That sort of mindset was being established in schools – so there’s definitely a lot that we can do. 

ABSOLUTELY, IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM. SO, ANOTHER AREA THAT I’D LOVE TO DISCUSS WITH YOU IS IN REGARD TO THE CURRENT MARKET. WE’RE SEEING IN THIS MARKET THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE REACTING TO THE TECH GIANTS LAYOFFS AND ARE LOOKING TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESSES. AS THE HEAD OF BD, WITH DIVERSITY IN MIND, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE?

Oh, great question – it’s a big question, for sure! I would say surround yourself with people that are not like you. If you are starting a business, obviously you’ll need to surround yourself with people that you trust first and foremost. That is the most important thing. But as you build out your leadership teams and when you start hiring, surround yourself with people who are different from you. We tend to attract people who are similar and focus on the ones that we know, that make us feel comfortable and look like us.  
I mean it’s no joke that if you look at all of the boards of the top Fortune 500 companies, they all look kind of similar don’t they? Luckily, we are seeing small changes. But, if you are to give yourself the best chance of growing, so many studies have shown that diverse hiring is important.
 There was a study done by McKinsey who found in 2020 that businesses with more diverse boards have 36% above average profits. Another report I read last week from 2018 published that boards with gender diversity outperform boards without gender diversity. Also, I think it was BCG who found in 2019 that diverse teams drive higher innovation. And then, Deloitte in 2018 found diverse teams outperform competitors by 80%. So really? It’s all out there. If you’re starting a business and you want to be successful, this is the way forward. Even from a capitalistic and for-profit perspective, diversity is important. 

THOSE STATISTICS SAY EVERYTHING! FINALLY, IS THERE ANY MESSAGE OR THOUGHTS YOU’D LIKE TO END ON?

I’d like to say that whilst I’m speaking from the female lens, I’m also speaking from the lens of a woman of colour and I’m very mindful that diversity comes in all shapes, forms and sizes. You can’t get it 100% right all of the time and I think people sometimes look at this and they get really scared because nowadays you get called out more for what you do wrong than what you do right. I think it’s also really important for companies and business leaders to celebrate how far they have come in being inclusive because you can’t fix it all in one day. It’s all about mindset and the willingness to do the work and keep going for long-term impact and results. So yeah, it’s important to create visibility, go to events and continue the work you are doing to help improve diverse hiring. It’s something we all need to get on board with!

 

Thank you Felicitas - you rock!

Interview by Lizzie Murray

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