Presentation: Your Org Should Think About Diversity, Yesterday



2:55pm - 3:45pm

Day of week:


Key Takeaways

  • Understand the value of having a culture of diversity to software.
  • Hear practices and lessons on building diverse teams.
  • Learn what is meant by active inclusion.


Diversity in the workplace has long been a topic of discussion at Tech companies across the board. Beyond the moral and ethical justifications, we at BuzzFeed feel that the diversity within our culture has provided a big competitive advantage and it’s something we don’t shy away from. Our industry, like all industries, should be open to anyone prepared to join it, and our industry, like most industries, has historically been terrible at inclusivity. But it’s a mistake to look at diversity solely as an ethical imperative. In fact, diversity is an urgent and unending project for anyone who’s ambitious about building the strongest tech org. Hear from BuzzFeed’s Director of Engineering, Swati Vauthrin on how our technology team has applied learnings from editorial strategy to recruiting and building a diverse tech org.


What is your role today?
I am Director of Engineering at BuzzFeed. My team is responsible for building the consumer facing products for BuzzFeed which include parts of and the BuzzFeed mobile apps.
What’s the motivation for your talk?
My talk is about recognizing that the diversity that we have built into our teams- whether it’s within technology, editorial or other parts of BuzzFeed- has really allowed us to be a differentiator and allowed us to think about and Engineer products differently. We see that as a really big competitive advantage. I would love to just be able to spread that knowledge and share that experience with the rest of industry.
What are some of the ways that BuzzFeed’s diversity has led to a differentiator for you?
For us, it’s about how we are approaching our product development processes. We have people from really different backgrounds. You know, not everybody fits the same mold, and I think that for us that's been really powerful. It allowed us to think differently, to think about how we are Engineering products differently. And even the content that we provide to our users is all done with this diversity in the back of our minds, because people are coming at it from different backgrounds, different experiences, different levels. I think that it’s been an organic way for us to continue to showcase that we are a different type of media company.
Does the talk focus on the benefits of diversity or do you go into actionable things that you have done that other people can follow?
I am essentially telling the story about what we have done and why we felt like it was important. I am showcasing that it works and that we are continuing to evolve and make it work even better. Hopefully, I will also discuss creative ways to really approach the problem.
I feel like the Technology space is not really accepting; it is not really easy to just hire for diversity. It is not just easy to do. Because of that, we are thinking of creative ways to enable us (and I think that other organizations) can really benefit from these practices. It's not just about a recruiting group that says 'this is what we want'. It’s everybody. It’s all of the teams involved thinking about diversity throughout the organization.
So you talk about creative ways. Can you give me a taste of what you are going to go into to give people just a feel for what they could expect coming to your talk?
Yeah, there is something around active inclusiveness. This is why maybe somebody would want to come and work for us, or would want to contribute and help build our diverse teams. It’s about participating in communities and also really fostering the ability for people internally to have groups that are showcasing their diversity and their differences; thinking about women, thinking about LGBT, thinking about other people of diverse backgrounds, whether you are African American, Hispanic, or Asian. Really thinking about these different groups and really fostering a community around that.
The thing is thinking about giving back. Outside of the normal workday, we have people that are working within different groups. For example, teachers at schools, part of a program called Girls Who Code. That for us is a great way to not only put our brand out there, but to really start tapping into potential at an earlier age. It also helps foster women in technology at an age where they are starting to really think about what they want to be when they grow up. It showcases that coding is really powerful and there is a lot that you can do with it (it just doesn’t just fall into like one area). There is a whole spectrum of industries that really require people to understand how to program. I feel that having people, specifically people at BuzzFeed, working with people at that young age can help plant those seeds into these young individuals and helps really see that this is a career opportunity that they can grow in. I feel like having it at a younger age is where we need to really start.
What types of things will someone who comes to your talk be able to walk away with? What are they going to feel? What are they going to believe? What is going to be actionable for them after they leave?
A lot of times we talk about things at this level and we say why it’s important but then when you actually see it being done, it’s a different story. Knowing that it’s pretty easy to just do a few small tweaks here and there, or introducing different practices within your organization, can enable the organization to open up opportunities for more diverse individuals. I think at BuzzFeed we have really been able to foster that and I also think it’s part of our mission. I think that my talk hopefully will open people’s eyes to something that should be there from the very beginning and can be natural to have all along. If you do, it can be part of the organization’s goals moving forward.
How can we attract more women and more people of diverse backgrounds to software?
I think at Buzzfeed we really respected the traditional path into technology and engineering. You know, a Computer Science or Computer Engineering degree undergrad, then starting out as a programmer, and then growing into your career. Well, that’s changing nowadays.
People have access to a lot of different accelerated programs (short term programs that allow them to change their careers and get into technology). We’ve been able to tap into some of these programs at Buzzfeed and have been able to provide individuals opportunities within BuzzFeed to test new careers out. It’s like hey, maybe this person came from a background that had nothing to do with technology, but they have an interest and aptitude. For example, we have a Senior Software Engineer here who started out as a Wine Sommelier. Today, she is probably one of our best engineers, and she brings a lot to the table. Some of these traditional backgrounds are just not always going to be there and people should be okay with that.
What do you feel is the most disruptive tech in IT right now?
I think for us personally, we are all about content consumption; we are content creators here at BuzzFeed and looking at the various ways that people are consuming content- now I think Snapchat has been playing a pretty big role in that. And also changing the way that content is consumed is also the big next big thing and for us, I think it’s probably going to be VR. It is going to change the ways that content creators are producing content at the end of the day.

Speaker: Swati Vauthrin

Director of Engineering @BuzzFeed

Swati Vauthrin is Director of Engineering at BuzzFeed where she leads a team focused on creating BuzzFeed’s consumer experiences including and the BuzzFeed app. Prior to BuzzFeed Swati was Senior Director, Technology & Development at ESPN where she led a global team of over 30 Software Engineers that built and supported digital products for all of ESPN brands outside of the US. She also worked as a Software Engineering Manager at The Walt Disney Company. Swati holds both a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from The George Washington University. A long time advocate of STEM for Women, Swati has volunteered at Technovation Challenge for over 4yrs and has spoken and judged at many technology conferences including AlleyNYC's Startup Battles and Tech In Motion. Swati is also a mother of a little girl and loves watching her smile and grow every day.

Find Swati Vauthrin at


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