Treating I&D as a core area of the business

Treating I&D as a core area of the business

By: Rebecka Klintström, inclusion and diversity lead at Clir Renewables

A quick internet search on inclusion and diversity will provide thousands of ideas on how to solve the tech industry’s issues with representation. It’s easy to find research, news articles, and lots of concrete tips on how to improve the diversity of teams or create a more inclusive work environment. However, none of that will have an impact in your company unless there’s buy-in from the entire organization, from executive level to the newest, most junior hires. It’s not enough to have goals for diversity or a vision for inclusion if it doesn’t lead to concrete actions and measurable improvements. But how do you make sure that inclusion and diversity move from being something mentioned in long-buried policy documents or the topic of a soon forgotten workshop?

Inclusion and diversity are complex, sensitive topics. To make progress, we need to be fearless, while at the same time, staying mindful of how intensely personal and complicated the discussion topics are. Conversations around gender or race, salaries, work environment, or biases in the hiring and promotion process often forces us to face uncomfortable truths, both about ourselves and about others. Done right, it’s an integral part of creating a healthy organization. Done wrong, at best it’s a lot of time spent without any impact. At Clir, we’ve found that the best way to work with this is to treat our inclusion and diversity initiative like any other crucial part of our organization and create processes for it accordingly. We wouldn’t expect there to be a pre-packaged solution for any other complex business issue we’re trying to solve, and we shouldn’t expect that for creating an inclusive and diverse company either. We’ve worked on creating an environment to have healthy, focused conversations around inclusion and diversity, and it’s nowadays an integral part of our company’s day-to-day.

The way we work with inclusion and diversity is essentially the same as we treat other business areas: we have annual goals, broken down to quarterly goals, and we have a scorecard with metrics communicated to the executive team every month. Once a month, we have an in-person meeting with the inclusion and diversity focus team, where we plan the coming month’s work and discuss our top priority issues. We have a weekly check-in to make sure we stay on track with whatever our focus area is for the current month. Data from our monthly surveys, our hiring candidate pool, and the diversity numbers for the company form the metrics for our scorecard. The monthly newsletter shares these metrics with the whole company, and our diversity numbers are presented on our website to keep us accountable. We’ve found that to be able to have the important conversations and steer a change, we need to create a space where these conversations can lead to concrete actions. We must devise a predictable work and information flow to become aware of inclusion and diversity issues within our organization, and the communication routes need to be understood by everyone. Having processes for the inclusion and diversity work means we can make sure we’re focusing on the most important issues and identify if we’re making progress beyond just discussing them.

We’re a data-driven company, and we want that to influence all the work we’re doing, including inclusion and diversity. Our monthly work satisfaction survey includes questions around meeting culture, support from managers and coworkers, and general satisfaction with work tasks and work environment, broken down by team or gender. We can look at the results and let it drive where we focus our limited resources. Our bi-yearly general inclusion survey serves as a measurement of whether the work we’re doing actually has an impact on our work culture and environment. We’ve been hiring a lot the past year, growing from a small team of eleven to over forty employees in Vancouver, Eastern Canada, and the UK. We’re tracking the diversity of our candidate pool to stay focused on developing a less biased hiring process. For some roles where we get many applicants, we do a deeper dive to understand if we’re unconsciously filtering out groups at specific steps in our recruiting and hiring process. Our processes for the inclusion and diversity initiative helped us identify and solve this issue, while if we hadn’t implemented these procedures we likely wouldn’t have noticed the problem. Our data collection helped us understand that we were losing candidates identifying as visible minority in the first screening interviews. Without collecting and visualizing the data, we wouldn’t have identified the issue, and without having a process and fixed format for the discussions, even starting the conversation would have been difficult. Collecting data and having processes keeps us on track and creates the environment we need for the conversations to happen.

We would never say it’s “good enough” about another area of the company or that we don’t need to keep improving. Having the same workflow and level of accountability for working with our core values makes it easy to have the same mindset and sense of urgency for questions related to inclusion and diversity as for any other critical part of our company.

 

About Rebecka Klintström

Rebecka has been at Clir from the start and leads Clir’s Inclusion and Diversity initiative. She has over six years’ experience working in the wind industry, both as a consultant and for a utility. She has worked in all phases of a wind project, from pre-construction flow modelling, met mast installations and noise modelling to operational analysis, icing loss modelling and optimizations, as well as managed research projects and project portfolios.

 

Image: Freeimages.com

Putting learning into practice

Putting learning into practice

Putting learning into practice: How my studies helped with my current role

Blog by Sampoorna Biswas

 

With the number of online courses and coding bootcamps out there today, one might wonder how useful a computer science degree is, in an actual job. The learning definitely does not stop once you graduate, and school doesn’t teach you everything there is to learn. But when I look back at my six and a half years of undergraduate and master’s study, I can see just how much of it I still use in my role as Data Scientist and Software Developer!

Studying undergraduate level computer science imparted many technical skills that I use on a daily basis. Some of the skills included, coding and algorithms fundamentals, software best practices, good database design, understanding of IT infrastructure, and technical communication.

One of the most overlooked, yet extremely useful tips I learned was using Google to find the answers you need. I remember the professor of an intro-level course in my very first semester, telling us that if there’s one thing to take away from the course, it is: how to phrase (and rephrase) your problem so you can find solutions to it online. In software development, we always stress not re-inventing the wheel and learning from and building upon what already exists. We can’t remember the syntax of every programming language we learn, nor the methods contained in every library. But we learn the core concepts, and then research the rest.

Besides technical skills, studying teaches you about dealing with uncertainty, employing a systematic problem-solving approach when the answer is not always obvious, as well as the importance of continually learning new skills, which is key to advancing your career, especially in a fast-moving field such as tech.

I also dabbled a little bit in research, going into it in more depth during grad school. That was extremely useful as well! Research is about innovation, about coming up with something new – it can be a new algorithm, a new application, a new approach to an old problem, or even novel analysis. But here too, you always build upon what already exists. To be truly innovative, you need to first understand what’s already out there, and why that doesn’t sufficiently address the problem. As a data scientist, this means reading research papers or technical reports to try to understand the problem, see what approaches have been tried by others, and how we can build on that. At Clir, there are lots of interesting problems to solve, and the solutions are not always obvious. In fact, if it seems easy at first, it’s probably because we haven’t fully understood the problem yet!

Ultimately, school teaches you how to learn. It teaches you the fundamentals of the subject area and provides you with the skills you need to keep building on it. Beyond that, school also gives you exposure, opportunities, and a safe space to explore your interests: perhaps I would not have considered this career path, if not for the people I met and the interesting topics I studied through the course of my journey!

Early action essential for a diverse working environment

Early action essential for a diverse working environment

By: Rebecka Klintström, inclusion and diversity lead at Clir Renewables

Inclusion and diversity in the workplace have been a major topic of discussion in recent years. At Clir Renewables building an inclusive workplace for our team is a core value. We believe that ensuring the work environment is one where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and do their absolute best is essential to create an engaged team. In addition, numerous studies cite that diversity in the workplace can lead to increased profitability, and as a start-up company in a competitive industry working on this makes sense to us.

Inclusion and diversity is not a ‘task’ you ever complete. Sure, in terms of diversity you may reach the goals you initially set, but to truly have an inclusive and diverse workplace it must be an ongoing process. It should form part of the daily work environment and be present in everyone’s mind regardless of their role within in the company. We recognized this as an issue early on at Clir. The reason we want to spend time on inclusion and diversity is twofold:

  1. We’re a renewable energy company and as such we want to make the world a better and more sustainable place.
  2. Research shows that companies with better diversity figures that focus on inclusion are more profitable.

We believe people thrive in a workplace where there is a focus on inclusion and diversity. We want to be a part of the movement pushing these values forward! Moreover, we believe that having different backgrounds, experiences and cultures in our team will bring more views to the table, in turn helping us be more creative.

At an early stage, we knew the company would grow quickly so with inclusion and diversity in our minds we consciously reviewed our recruitment strategy to mitigate some of the unconscious biases at play in a recruiting process. Gradually this strategy has taken us from 12% female staff when I started in February 2017, to 28% at the beginning of 2018 to where we are today with 45%*.  For technical staff, we’re currently at 57%* women including some of the most recent hires on our software team. Obviously, gender is not the only measure of diversity but is one of the most easily identifiable.

As a team, we formulated a plan to enable Clir to take advantage of the best talent from all backgrounds today and going forward. We created a number of KPIs for inclusion and diversity which we measure on a regular basis and communicate to staff through an internal newsletter. Additional internal communications are used to share key information about the company with all employees making sure everyone is aware of what is happening.

We continue to work on developing a company culture where inclusion actually “happens”. Recently we organized a workshop on the topic for the whole company as part of our yearly team meet up. The workshop focused on our unconscious biases and we talked about different tools we can use to better identify them, and consequently get better at not acting on them. Among other things, it gave us some ideas on how to adapt our meeting structure to make sure everyone feels they can share their opinion and freely participate in the discussions.

We’re currently working on a survey to get a broader understanding of how everyone in the team experiences our work environment and company culture to identify the core areas where we need to focus going forward. Since we’re also in the process of hiring new talent in our tech, sales, and operations teams we have a great opportunity to test our new recruiting and interviewing tools we’ve developed as a part of the project together with key personnel from each team.

We strive to build an inclusive and diverse company culture that people want to join. To achieve this we will continue to work on and implement our inclusion and diversity strategy. If you would like to join our ever expanding team visit the careers page of our website.

* Figure correct as of September 2018

About Rebecka Klintström

Rebecka has been at Clir from the start and leads Clir’s Inclusion and Diversity initiative. She has over six years’ experience working in the wind industry, both as a consultant and for a utility. She has worked in all phases of a wind project, from pre-construction flow modelling, met mast installations and noise modelling to operational analysis, icing loss modelling and optimizations, as well as managed research projects and project portfolios.

Tackling the biggest wind industry issues

Tackling the biggest wind industry issues

By: Gareth Brown, CEO of Clir Renewables

Two years ago I left a brilliant company. For over ten years they had given me a life-changing opportunity to work on renewable energy projects all over the world from pre-construction all the way through to decommissioning. I can’t thank the company and people who I worked with enough for the incredible opportunity and experience.

You may wonder if it was such a great company why did I leave? During those ten years, it became very apparent that most, if not all, wind energy asset owners and operators do not understand the performance of their assets and our industry is not performing to its potential. I wanted to change this, so took a leap of faith and here I am two years later working with a team of experts from the renewables and software industries implementing change.

Tackling wind turbine performance is a difficult task and unique to wind energy where we face six key challenges:

  1. It’s the only commercial turbine power generation source where we have highly variable unmeasured inflow conditions spread out over disparate generation locations.
  2. The turbine design standards haven’t kept pace with the industry’s rate of growth and the real-world conditions that these turbines are deployed in.
  3. An industry obsession with availability as the be all and end all of performance metrics in the industry and a data architecture not suited for wind farm performance management.
  4. The conflict of interest that poorly structured O&M agreements create to disincentive performance management.
  5. Limited resource to address these issues as most wind farms haven’t achieved their financing preconstruction energy yields.
  6. Limited knowledge sharing across OEMs, consultants and operators which creates a lack of knowledge bringing all the performance.

We launched Clir at the beginning at 2017 to address these challenges. We created software that provides owners, or any renewable energy stakeholder, with information at their fingertips to understand asset performance, maximize output and protect assets from risk. The system analyses live data allowing for quicker responses to any issues that arise including daily error code reconciliation.

The first two years have flown by, and as with any start-up, it’s been a roller-coaster. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible when we apply deep renewables domain expertise with the latest computer and data science trends. Having over 2GW of assets on board, we are already seeing fantastic results of up to 5% AEP gains. I’m incredibly excited about what the next two years will bring.


About the Author: Gareth has over a decade of experience leading identification, development, construction, financing, and operation of renewable energy assets for a world leading renewable energy technical consultancy. He is an entrepreneur, chartered engineer with the IMechE, and has degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering. Currently, he serves as the CEO for the Renewable Energy Software Startup, Clir Renewables.