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Anyone Who Cares About Supporting Women at Work Should Read This Man’s Advice — ASAP
Brian Solomon, Senior Manager of Talent Partnerships at OnDeck, and his family. Photo Courtesy of OnDeck.
Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss
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For Brian Solomon, Senior Manager of Talent Partnerships at OnDeck, thinking about gender diversity is a non-negotiable part of the hiring process. At OnDeck, he says, “every interview committee will include at least one woman; no candidate will interview at OnDeck and meet a collection of only homogeneous OnDeckers. Second, every position at OnDeck will have a diverse candidate pool consisting of a 50/50 split of men and women.”

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Solomon — who’s deeply committed to being an ally to women in the workplace and beyond — recently shared with Fairygodboss how this mindset plays out in his day-to-day routine, why OnDeck is a particularly great place for women to work, and the most memorable piece of career advice he’s received.

How long have you been with OnDeck? What about it made you first want to join?

It will be 6 years in October. I joined OnDeck for two main reasons. First was the ability to stand up a recruiting function. I was OnDeck’s first recruiter; along with being tasked to attract, assess, and hire team members across the business during our rapid growth stage, I was also brought in to recommend processes, structure, and recruiting technology (an ATS) to the company’s recruitment function as part of an HR team of 2, and company of just over 100.

I joined during a time when our strategy involved a lot of people growth to support the business growth. We were opening another office (Denver), launching a new product (line of credit), and planning for international expansion (Canada and Australia). There was lots to do in HR and Recruiting!

Second, and more importantly, I joined OnDeck because I truly believed in the company’s mission, to create innovative lending experiences and financial products that help small businesses succeed. That mission has never wavered in my time here, even during the company’s evolution and transformation into a public financial services company of over 500 team members, and at critical milestones and events like going public, taking OnDeck global, persevering through various business cycles, and formalizing our strategic first of its kind partnership with Chase.

What are your main job responsibilities, and what about your role most excites you?

Today, I manage our Talent Partnerships team (aka Recruiting). I partner with our business leaders, hiring managers, and my colleagues on the People Ops team to help close the skills gap at OnDeck through recruitment.

We’re hiring for all of our functions and across all three of our US offices as well as in Canada and Australia, so I manage our internal and external Talent Partners on our strategies and tactics to attract, assess, and ultimately hire the best talent we can find.

Most exciting for me is to find a shared connection with team members and interviewing candidates who are similarly passionate about helping small businesses achieve their goals through whatever role they may play at OnDeck.

While we’ve made progress toward achieving a more gender-balanced workforce, there remains a lot of work to be done.

What kinds of actions do you incorporate into your day-to-day routine at work (or beyond) to serve as a male ally?

At OnDeck, we are hyper-conscious and purposeful about our gender mix (about 65:35 today). This gap has closed meaningfully since I started when it was 80:20. But I agree — there is still plenty of work to be done. OnDeck has 2 Employee Resource Groups called Women of OnDeck and Women in Technology. Both are collections of team members who have connected around our commitment to a more gender-balanced workforce; they directly impact how we think and talk about diversity at OnDeck, which results in a more inclusive environment.

More tactically on the recruiting front, we have two non-negotiable agreements. First, every interview committee will include at least one woman; no candidate will interview at OnDeck and meet a collection of only OnDeck dudes. This will (hopefully) deliver a balanced candidate experience in interview dialog, as well as bring in diverse perspectives during interview feedback calibration.

Second, every position at OnDeck will have a diverse candidate pool consisting of a 50/50 split of men and women. Our Talent Partnerships team has committed to this agreement. If we are going to interview eight candidates for Sales Agent, or Software Engineer, or Director of Product, at least four of those candidates will be women, and all eight candidates will be well qualified. Obviously we throw gender and all other protected classes out the window when we discuss interview feedback and make our hiring decision, but at least we know we’ll have a gender-balance candidate pool on which to make an informed decision.

At home, I’m married and have a 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter. My wife is a teacher and brings in her amazing perspective on how impressionable kids are at young ages, more specifically when they are with their peers. We have regular and important dialog around how important it is to raise our son to treat and respect all people the same, and plan on empowering our daughter to dream and be whatever she wants to be.

What kinds of longer-term initiatives are you participating in to advance gender equality at your workplace (whether an employee resource group, mentorship, etc.)? 

We have our ERGs, Women of OnDeck and Women in Technology, which we’d love to elevate to another level. Today, they are internal chapters of cross functional team members of all demographics focused on empowering the women of the company to connect, curate leadership opportunities, and encourage dialog about the urgent issues and challenges we are facing today about diversity, safe workplaces for all, and simply how to be good, civil human beings.

Why do you believe your company is a particularly supportive place for women employees? 

First, we truly value diversity at all levels and in all parts of the organization. I like to think that our company, especially our leadership team, is a collection of smart, talented, and simply good people. We’re embracing our responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive workforce that is fully representative of the communities we live, work, and do business in.

One of our programs is around our flexible and generous paid leave for parents. I was incredibly proud to be part of our People Operations committee designing this program, although the concept and strategy credit goes to two amazing women on our Total Rewards team (Diane Thrasher and Zahra Hassanally). It’s also no secret I was one of OnDeck’s first dads to take advantage of this amazing benefit when my daughter was born in early 2017.

We offer 10 weeks of paid Parental leave for all parents, and an additional 6 weeks (16 total) for birthing mothers (when combined with an eligible disability leave). This time off is a fully paid, fully “turned off from work” arrangement. Although some team members choose to be more connected than others during their leave, the majority of our team members disconnect entirely and are encouraged to do so. We’re purposefully flexible with all parents on their arrangements when it’s time to transition back to work, knowing full well it’s both an exciting, challenging, and scary time.

What’s your #1 tip for men who want to be allies to women at work but aren’t sure of what to do or where to start? 

Align yourself with anyone — man, women, neutral, transitioning, undecided — who values the principles of diversity and the accountabilities of inclusion. It’s pretty easy to simply be an ally to women if your intention of being a good human is a natural part of who you are in the first place.

Also, read. Stay educated on what we are experiencing as a culture and society. Articulate your point of view and perspectives to everyone you interact with when it comes to the urgency around gender equality. Empathize with the courage the women of the #MeToo and #TimesUp groups, and rally behind the impact they are making in our workplaces and societies by their bravery and dialog.

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?

I’ve learned a lot from this certain Fairygodboss. She always takes a genuine, vested interest in my learning and development. This shows up mostly in the form of pretty direct, and sincere, feedback. She makes it a point to abruptly stop during the course of our hectic work day and offer “teaching moments”, where I’m able to see and hear her real-time perspective and decision making on some of our most critical people and talent issues. This has developed into a real, honest, and trusting professional relationship, and now friendship.

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?

The golden rule — treat others how you want to be treated — is non-negotiable in building trust and personal connections. Everyone is different in how we learn and work, but the same in needing personal connections to truly live happy.

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