We are excited to announce that Shuchi Sharma has joined us as vice president and chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer (CDEIO). In her new role, Shuchi will be responsible for leading Red Hat’s DEI Global Center of Excellence, which is focused on setting our DEI strategies that align with our short and long-term business goals and partnering across our leadership, business and people practices. These practices include attracting and retaining diverse talent, career advancement and associate development. In her role, she aims to foster a culture of belonging for all associates and help make Red Hat a more open and inclusive company in the technology industry.
Shuchi brings nearly 20 years of experience in business management and DEI leadership to Red Hat. Alongside the professional experience, she brings her own lived experience to bear on this work.
Prior to joining Red Hat, Shuchi held the role of Global Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at SAP. While there, she developed and implemented a cohesive DEI strategy to drive the company toward achieving its goals on workforce diversity.
In addition to her DEI experience, she has held a variety of leadership roles including leading SAP’s business consulting practice across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), building a global marketing function for business consulting, and leading the strategic sales advisory business for SAP’s HR cloud software business in North America.
Shuchi spent 10 years working in 14 countries, and brings a deep understanding of what it means to operate as a global entity to her roles. Prior to SAP she also held positions at Ernst & Young and SAS.
We caught up with Shuchi to find out more about the insights and perspectives she will be bringing to her role as CDEIO.
Why did you choose to join Red Hat?
Two reasons. The first is that I have always been inspired to contribute to something much greater than myself. In grad school, I had a mentor who told me, “We were not put on earth to make a paycheck, we were put on earth to make a difference.” That brought into focus and validated everything that I had felt in my then short life. That statement has always stayed with and guided me to work for purpose-driven organizations that align with my own values. I have so much respect for the associates and leaders of Red Hat, who share this sense of purpose to solve some of the world’s challenges using open source technology.
Second, when I was a child, I wanted to be an inventor. I envisioned creating smart refrigerators that could refill themselves, cars that ran on voice activation and would automatically adjust for a differently-abled person’s needs, and cameras that could self-adjust lighting and focus. I dreamt about inventing all of this at a time when the personal computer was just coming on the scene.
Red Hat is a company whose platform and technologies in collaboration with open source communities are intended to create a future we can barely imagine now, solve some of the world’s biggest technology challenges, and create foundational components that so many other organizations are going to innovate on top of.
Yet to do this well, we have to be inclusive. When I think about the opportunity to contribute to that endeavor and how much more impactful it would be if we can weave inclusion, belonging and a more diverse ecosystem of people, ideas and thoughts, I’m inspired. Without a culture of true inclusion, we miss opportunities for innovation and customer success. Red Hat is a technology company that thrives on innovation. And like most tech companies, it simply cannot compete without diversity of people, experiences, thoughts and perspectives.
In recent years, we’ve seen a shift from discussing diversity and inclusion to including equity in the conversation. Why is that shift important? Why do these ideas need to work cohesively?
The world has shifted radically in the last two years. In those shifts, inequalities have become more transparent, and in many cases, more widespread. Ultimately, the work of diversity and inclusion is about driving more equity – more equal access to opportunities for all. Yet to do that, we have to lead with inclusion.
Putting diversity first and only focusing on the numbers is akin to putting the cart before the horse. Without a culture of inclusion, your most diverse people, thinkers and perspectives won’t feel safe to bring their full selves to work, and without that safety, they can’t take the risks that real innovation requires. And when that happens, they leave or stay silent - and we all lose. Those individuals lose, the company loses, society loses.
How do you see open source principles influencing your work as chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer?
I originally trained as a scientist and tend to look at everything through that lens, so I’ll start with one of the principles most people wouldn’t expect to see talked about in DEI – release early and often. Release early and often is about using an iterative approach to find solutions faster. The principle is similar to that of experimentation: hypothesize, pilot, test and examine outcomes before scaling solutions into an organization.
If you take a step back, DEI work is about dismantling hundreds of years of institutionalized bias that have embedded themselves into all institutions, processes, and elements of our society. And comparatively, the DEI space as a practice area is relatively new. So, we’re talking about complex challenges that require sophisticated solutions. And many of those solutions are not yet completely known, tested and readily available for implementation. So, a more scientific approach is needed to figure out what works. We need to experiment, find solutions in new and different places, test them, and learn by doing. I am a big fan of the fail fast and fail forward mindset. In every outcome, there is a gift or opportunity for learning.
Transparency is important. We need to share information that helps everyone understand our progress and our challenges in order to move forward. Now, not all our data can be shared, yet we need to share what we can with the right audiences, at the right time. Information shared fosters our ability to be collaborative.
And in the DEI space, nothing happens without collaboration. We are working in an ecosystem of partners. We are not building empires. That ecosystem is a community.
And last, inclusive “meritocracy” is a worthy goal, yet we must first acknowledge the fact that we live in a world that’s currently far from it. Are there steps we can take as individuals to work toward it? Absolutely – a first step is to commit to engaging in our own self reflection and understand how we each can make a difference individually as we strive to address our collective goals towards advancing equity for all Red Hatters.