After 20 years in the security field, Yumi Nishiyama has gotten used to being the only female among her hoodie-wearing male counterparts. So her decision to join security firm Exabeam nearly three years ago as director of global services was based chiefly on the quality of the people and environment of innovation. On top of that though, she notes, a commitment to diversity, driven by Exabeam co-founder and CEO Nir Polak and supported by company executives, “”makes me really happy to be here.””
One of those executives is her boss Ted Plumis, vice president of channels. “”Once we started growing a team out beyond a couple of people, we really wanted to have a diverse group of people to look for in the pool,”” says Plumis, adding that he wanted candidates characterized by “”difference of thought, difference of opinion, difference of life experience.”” He notes that the channel team has reached near 50% gender diversity. “”At first we just naturally gravitated toward the best people and they just happened to be women, but a lot of it is because Exabeam focuses on putting them in the pool of candidates to start.””
Plumis acknowledges that intentionally expanding where you recruit to widen the talent pool is a learned experience. “”I’m one of the people that used to be guilty of just going back to their same network all the time to get the same pool of people. Then we went outside of my network to make the hire and I was like, ‘wow, this is a really good person we brought on.’ And then we actually went to their network to find the next person.””
For Kristin Willard, channel manager, West, Exabeam’s leadership and product were what initially attracted her intererst when interviewing for the job. But, she adds, “”through the interview process, finding out about their commitment to diversity was a big driving factor for my decision to actually make the move.””
Company-wide, 39% of Exabeam employees are Black, indigenous, or people of color, Plumis says, and women represent 15% of the workforce at the director level and above.
Exabeam is actively working to improve those percentages with efforts such as the CommUNITY Council, a task force dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion within Exabeam and the community at large and led by LaChristian Taylor, executive assistant to the CEO, CFO, and president.
“”Our founder and CEO has been absolutely resolute in talking about diversity on every single team call,”” Willard says. “”His commitment has just been encouraging and inspiring to watch.””
Another internal effort is the ExaGals program, which began as an initiative driven by Polak to select a handful of women to help forge the company culture. Over time, ExaGals has evolved to support and empower the women of Exabeam, as well as women in the technology community at large, with career development, education, and personal growth opportunities.
“”When I started three years ago at Exabeam, [ExaGals] was more of a monthly lunch just to bring the women together,”” Nishiyama says. “”We brought a business case in front of our executive leadership to use that ExaGal name and forum to drive development initiatives for the women and provide career growth opportunities,”” she adds. “”Now we have a committee of women and have various silos. We’ve got the monthly newsletters. We have a training path. We bring in external and internal speakers. We started a mentoring program. We have a team that does volunteer work. … So a lot of really wonderful initiatives.””
Creativity on the channel team is an additional byproduct of diversity, according to Willard. “”I think that having … diversity on the team has definitely helped Exabeam. When COVID first started, the creativity that we had on our team to pivot from in-person events to online virtual events. … I think that it’s definitely helped build the pipeline at our company having this diverse group of out-of-the-box thinkers on the team. A lot of those initiatives were women led.””
The out-of-the-box thinking that comes from a diverse workforce is helping elsewhere too. “”Personally, selfishly, on the sales organization, what it leads to is the ability to relate to more customers and partners to be further out there in the market,”” Plumis says. “”From a product standpoint, when you expand the talent pool, you find better people that can build better products.””
Willard concludes, “”Ted has built truly a united team that all support each other and he’s got a culture of trust and respect, and all of our challenges, perspectives, and ideas are heard. And so not only are we heard, but we have the autonomy to take action, and because of that, you can really grow here.””
Opening image courtesy of Exabeam