As Singapore approaches its 56th National Day on Monday 9 August, employees from Zühlke’s Singapore office reflect on the importance of diversity and inclusion — both within the island city-state itself, and within Zühlke’s operations.
Though it may be a little red dot on the global map, Singapore has a diversity of races, languages, religions, and cultures.
‘I’ve spent a lot of time outside Singapore, and I would definitely say this country is a real diversity success story’, says Zühlke’s Head of Engineering, Keya Desai. ‘It’s so diverse in terms of culture, and you also see a lot more women in tech — which is great.’
Fabienne Enderlin, Zühlke’s Chief People Officer of Asia, says: ‘I personally find that Zühlke Singapore is one of the most diverse environments I’ve ever worked, and I’ve always worked internationally.’
A national culture of diversity
Singapore’s National Day is celebrated on 9 August every year, in commemoration of Singapore's independence from Malaysia in 1965. The celebrations typically include a National Day Parade, National Day Rally, community events, fireworks displays, and more.
‘It’s easy to embrace a multicultural perspective in Singapore because the government already supports it.’ says Fabienne. ‘For example, there are public holidays such as Hari Raya, Vesak Day, Deepavali, Good Friday, and Chinese New Year, amongst others. A lot of care is taken to make sure these are representative of all the different religions.’
This inclusive attitude is reflected in national policies too, such as the government’s support for career progression. As Keya says: ‘The government promotes certain programmes where they collaborate with corporations to give people the chance to step up — particularly in the last two years during COVID. For those in their mid-careers looking to learn new skills or make a career switch, there are a variety of support and conversion schemes to help to make that a reality. ’
‘There are also a lot of nation-wide programmes for young people and fresh graduates such as traineeships and internships.’ adds Fabienne. ‘What Singapore’s government is doing to upskill their workforce is fantastic.’
Technology supports inclusiveness
Zühlke’s Singapore team is a great example of how diversity and inclusion come together to create a unique and positive work culture. There’s a really diverse pool of talent which includes everyone from Singaporean locals, to colleagues from as far as Germany and Poland. They all call the island their home and all celebrate Singapore's National Day together.
We are also really proud that over half of Zühlke’s leadership team are female, bucking the tech industry’s trend of being overwhelmingly male-dominated.
‘Things are changing with more women studying engineering now and through the years, we have been getting more and more female engineers in the team!’ says Fabienne. ‘It’s also really diverse from a cultural perspective. We have people with different backgrounds from all over the world — from within Asia, and across the globe, from Mexico to England’.
Keya tells us that there’s also diversity in terms of workforce age: ‘It’s still considered a young person’s profession, but you don’t have to be a certain age to code. Anybody can learn.’
Diversity boosts innovation
‘I can definitely see the relationship between diversity and innovation.’ adds Keya.
‘You need all kinds of different skill sets nowadays, and a diverse workforce brings different approaches. We enjoy working with clients who are just as diverse as we are — particularly where they’re building international systems for a very diverse range of end users.’
‘As a technologist, you want to make sure that the people building the software faithfully serve the intended user group. For example, one app that’s used by millions of people in the UK was built by a team located distributedly across different continents, with different genders, ethnicities, and so on. All their unique viewpoints helped make software that prioritises the right features in the best way.’
Diversity and inclusion bring many other advantages
Fabienne agrees: ‘There are a lot of benefits. Having a diverse mix makes for a fun and very creative work environment — it enables the entire workforce to do more in different ways. Our people appreciate and embrace diversity as a fountain of ideas to help make improvements in all areas.’
‘It also boosts retention as an employer brand because people like to work in an organisation that’s inclusive’, says Keya. ‘In a talent-constrained market, when Singapore itself is so diverse, the workforce should reflect that.’
The small price well worth paying
‘Yes, diversity and inclusion come with a price’, says Fabienne. ‘It requires more sensitivity and awareness when it comes to biases, and with the language or word choices you make. There are a lot of other more practical things in day-to-day life we have to be aware of too — especially in Singapore — for example, ensuring that we cater for the dietary preferences and restrictions of different religions.’
Keya expands: ‘There are a lot of little things that you have to do. Communication and decision making have to be considered. As an organisation, you need to be aware that you need to communicate and make decisions together.’
‘I think, for a diverse workforce to succeed, having open discussions — for topics like career progression or choice of project — is very important. We run “fishbowl” discussions where everyone gets their chance to speak without being interrupted, and that’s a really useful way of resolving important topics.’
‘You also want to cultivate a caring mindset amongst your teams that values how other people might perceive your communication. We’ve now established a culture guide — which started in Bulgaria — because our distributed teams are increasingly working across borders on global projects. Every team, worldwide, can access this living document as a reference, helping them to run activities around cultural awareness.’
Fabienne says: ‘Within Zühlke, there are a lot of bottom-up approaches that are picked up from all around the world. Cultural and awareness training that might take place in Switzerland, for example, can also be delivered in Singapore. There means we have a variety of different initiatives, all of which are collaborative, designed to help use get the most out of this connected world we’re in.’
As Chief People Officer at Zühlke Asia, Fabienne leads the HR functions in the region, supporting Zühlke in achieving its vision and future-oriented goals. With over 20 years of experience working with organisations across Asia and Europe, she has led teams and developed HR practices for fast-growing companies in various industries. In today’s dynamic business landscape, she strives to adapt and define modern HR structures and initiatives to drive an engaged workforce.