Sian Govind, Founder of BeHeard
How would you explain to a five-year-old what you do right now?
That’s a tough one! But good practice as I have a son turning five shortly. I would say that I am helping amazing kiwi companies that are inventing new technology to make sure they have all different types of people working together to build it. New technology can make our lives better and making sure different people work together, means that it will be able to help many more people.
And for the adults, what does a typical day-in-your-life look like?
Well right now, there is really no typical day. As anyone who has started their own business will know, it’s really about wearing whatever hat is required to keep things moving in the right direction.
I started working on BeHeard Aotearoa earlier in the year and now that I have the foundations of the business laid I am in marketing and business development mode. So currently my days are made up with a lot of experimenting with ways to get in front of the right companies who prioritise their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Of course, that means meetings, meetings, meetings. I am also planning my first Job Seeker workshop in Auckland for early June, so I am working on a bunch on content and event logistics for that.
What I envision my days to look like a couple of months from now would be partnering with organisations to help them solve challenges that they are facing in the DEI space. Whether that be getting diverse talent into their recruiting pipelines, tackling pay equity, designing inclusive hiring processes, setting up employee resource groups, upskilling employees on unconsious bias or workplace allyship… or just understanding where to make a start!
Was a career in “tech” something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
Not at all. My understanding of careers in tech when I was at high school consisted of IT Support or Web Design (the two classes offered) - neither of which interested me in the slightest. I dreamed of being a flight attendant and travelling the world. I went on to do just that and quickly realised it was not at all as glamorous as it seemed and frankly I found it quite boring! So that didn’t last long.
I stumbled into tech unwittingly when I moved to the Netherlands in my mid 20’s. The pace at which companies moved, the ability to experiment, fail, learn and work on ideas and products that were literally changing the world got me hooked.
I believe that how future career options in tech are presented in schools even today, two decades on, is perpetuating the growing digital divide in Aotearoa. That’s why part of my efforts with BeHeard Aotearoa are focussed on the more systemic challenges that need to be addressed to be able to create a more diverse tech sector.
Tell us a little bit more about the journey you are on and how you got interested in your profession in the first place?
My career in tech began roughly a decade ago. During that time I have had the privilege of working for some of the world’s fastest-growing tech companies such as Uber, Tesla and NZ’s own Halter.
I have worked across five continents and spent six years living and working in the Netherlands, my "second home" as I like to call it. It has been an extremely rewarding journey, but not without the challenges that come with being part of an underrepresented group in the tech industry.
Working in People & Talent I came to realise the significant power I had to impact candidates’, employees' and employers’ experiences. With that, I felt a sense of responsibility to harness my privilege and support the movement towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive tech sector. It became my passion project and I found myself soaking up every bit of knowledge I could about how to tackle the challenges that diverse workforces face.
I returned to Aotearoa in 2020 after having my first son, and following two years working in the NZ tech sector, I founded BeHeard Aotearoa. My mission is to help Kiwi organisations reap all the benefits of cognitive diversity while enabling more Kiwis to experience the rewards of a career in tech, without the barriers and obstacles so many from non-dominant groups face.
If you were to summarise one or two big problems you are looking to tackle in the coming years, what are they, and what is your connection to them?
The approach to Diversity, Equity and inclusion in the Kiwi Tech Sector. Unfortunately I think we are still lagging behind when it comes to this one.
There seems to have been a hesitancy to tackle the topic of DEI and there remains a lot of misunderstanding about the “why”. Of course, I am just one person, but if I can help even a handful of organisations realise that DEI is not just “the right thing to do” but has much broader implications, I will be making progress.
Aside from being proven time and time again that diverse organisations out perform homogeneous ones, it’s important for leaders, in the tech industry essepicially, to understand that they can’t build a future that serves society equitably if they don’t have the different voices mirroring our society present (and being heard) at the table.
Closing the digital divide. This one is an even bigger and scarier topic to tackle and it will take huge collaboration from the private sector, public sector, government to make progress. But my intention is to support the movement in any way I can.
Finally, how can others in the industry support what you are working on?
Check out www.beheard.nz and spread the word! As I mentioned, I am busy getting the word out there about BeHeard and I would love all the help I can get.
Please feel free to touch base or pass my details on to anyone who may benefit from hearing about BeHeard and the work we are doing. I am contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!