How Diversity Brings New Perspectives And Better Solutions To The Workplace

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey Moss, Founder and CEO of Parker Dewey LLC, a company focused on addressing the challenges…

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey Moss, Founder and CEO of Parker Dewey LLC, a company focused on addressing the challenges associated with college-to-career transitions through Micro-Internships. Prior to founding Parker Dewey, Jeffrey spent most of his career as a venture capital investor focusing on the education and technology sectors. In addition, Jeffrey was Chief of Enterprise Growth at Educational Testing Service (ETS) where his efforts focused on the use of assessment to drive equity in education and employment. Jeffrey currently serves on the Indiana University Kelley School of Business Alumni Board and the Purdue University College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council. Jeffrey’s other Board responsibilities have included: Chairman of the Board of Workstream (Nasdaq: WSTM), a software provider for human resources departments; OneGoal, a non-profit focused on college accessibility and persistence; the Chicago American Marketing Association; and the Illinois Venture Capital Association.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Having spent almost 20 years as a venture investor in education and technology companies, I saw firsthand the challenges facing recent college graduates in securing the right full-time jobs and internships. For those students from under-represented populations or who lacked the “right” academic pedigree, this was particularly difficult — while they had the grit, intelligence, drive, and other skills to thrive, they were often screened out by automated tools based upon their GPA or resume. 
 On the flip side, as someone who hired hundreds of interns and recent grads, I, too, often fell into the trap of relying on school, major, and GPA to filter out candidates. And while we used interview best practices, assessment, and other emerging technologies, too often we made hiring decision only to quickly learn that the fit wasn’t right for us, for them, or for both.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The funniest thing was getting a call from a student at Indiana who was working on a competitive analysis for a venture capital firm. After finding my contact info through IU’s alumni site, he reached out for advice given my background. He then proceeded to tell about how he found the Micro-Internship through Parker Dewey, not realizing that I was the founder. Not only was it a reminder to update my LinkedIn profile, it was a pretty cool to see the platform in action in the way others do.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think we are taking a unique approach to solving a big problem, and doing it in a way that everyone wins. For example, a marketing professional at a large software company wanted to experiment with social media, but didn’t have the bandwidth to do it himself or the budget to hire someone full-time. He wound up working with one of the Career Launchers who was happy to get the experience even though there was no expectation of a job at the conclusion. That said, when the project was done, the company was blown away not just by her efforts, but also the value of social media, and wound up creating a new full-time position for her.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We launched an effort with the United Negro College Fund last month tied to its Career Pathways Initiative. Not only is this providing opportunities for the students, but it’s helping companies look beyond the traditional talent pools and show employees that a professional does not need to come from a certain background, school, or major. We’re also in the process of ramping up a few efforts in Chicago tied to several community initiatives.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Focus on the real points of pain felt by the stakeholders and how you can help address them. Having now been on both sides of this, I’ve seen too many companies build something that should have been valued by clients, but they didn’t understand what friction it would create.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Too many to list. I’ve learned so much from every entrepreneur with whom I’ve work, educator I’ve gotten to know, and so many others. That said, I have a note (yes, a physical note!) from a current student taped to the wall in my office. I won’t bore you with the details, but whenever I get stressed or frustrated, a quick read reminds me why I’m doing this.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m not sure I have brought goodness to the world — I’ll let other judge that. However, I’ve tried to create a platform where individuals can bring goodness to one another in a way that everyone wins. That’s how we make goodness sustainable.

Can you share the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line? 
— New perspectives: This is where AI and other algorithm-driven model fail. They assume companies benefit from having employees that are the same in some way. The reality is that through diversity companies can better understand needs of different stakeholders and bring new solutions to the table. 
 — Access to different candidates: Companies spend tons of capital going to the same colleges to recruit the same individuals. That money is largely wasted.
 — Less attrition: By looking outside of traditional hiring metrics (which are flawed), companies can focus on who really has the right fit to thrive in their organization. Furthermore, we have heard time and again from Career Launchers who didn’t have the “right” background that they have tremendous respect and loyalty to those companies that give them a shot.
 — Empathy: Through diversity, companies can more effectively understand the perspective, needs, preferences of others leading to better outcomes.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his rear (though I usually use the PG13 version). It’s easy to say “if this” and “if that,” but we need to focus on reality.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Bill Gates. It might be trite, but given what he is doing through the Foundation is incredible. That said, so many of the education-related efforts are focused on forcing behavioral change of educational institutions and companies. I’d love to understand why he is taking that approach versus the more Socratic one that we have pursued as I am sure we could learn a lot an improve.

Jilea Hemmings CEO & Co-Founder of Best Tyme. She is running a series on how diversity can increase a company’s bottom line

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