NETGEAR is proud to congratulate Tamesa Rogers, our Senior Vice President of Human Resources, who has been recognized with a Leadership Excellence Award on behalf of the California division of the National Diversity Council.
Tamesa has been working as the head of HR at NETGEAR for the past 14 years. In fact, she was hired as the very first internal HR employee at the company. We spoke with Tamesa about the award and about her thoughts on diversity within Silicon Valley.
What do you feel is the significance of being recognized by the California Diversity Council with an award for Leadership Excellence?
I always just do my job and never look for recognition, so it really was an unexpected honor. I was anonymously nominated by a former NETGEAR employee, which made me feel like what I love doing has had a positive impact on other people, and that makes me feel very proud.
The well-deserved recognition you received was designed to inspire others hoping to climb the corporate ladder and break barriers in their careers. Having worked in HR in the Bay Area for so many years, what are your personal opinions on diversity in Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley has had an increased expressed focus on diversity over the past ten years or so. It seems to have become more of a sustaining topic, as opposed to just a “trend”. But we need more than just diversity. There’s a saying that goes: “diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Once you have a more diverse group, you then need to focus on how to make sure everyone feels supported and how to get everyone to work together, and then make the necessary changes within the company to ensure everyone can be successful.
How do you think NETGEAR is doing, in terms of diversity?
I think we do a good job of being intentional about the decisions that we make. So right now it’s really important for us to improve our numbers in terms of gender equality, and we are being intentional in using different networks and agencies to focus on making sure that we are looking at the best candidates that are out there. Oftentimes, if you stick to the same network, you are going to end up with the same type of people. We have done a good job of changing the focus of our candidate pool and are being introduced to a diverse population.
Can we do better? Absolutely, everyone can. Another way that we are empowering our workforce is through our new partnership with Lean In, which looks to help provide varied leadership opportunities for women. We want to bring everyone together and talk about what changes we can make. Unless you involve the employee population, it’s just people, up here, making decisions for others which may or may not be implemented. So this will be our next area of focus.
Who do you think will lead the way? Big companies, or small start-ups?
Making change is difficult. It’s easier as a smaller company to make diversity a part of the culture. But, it’s easier for a large company to have the resources to make it a priority.
Do you think companies in Silicon Valley bear a responsibility, in regards to remedying the problem of a lack of diversity?
Definitely. I do think that we all carry an unconscious bias. Recruiters carry a bias as well, it is their job to screen. But, not understanding what negatively impacts your screening is the challenge. It’s a big issue, as we all have subconscious stereotypes. For example, there aren’t that many African American engineers working in the Valley, but it’s not because they don’t exist. It really is about thinking differently. If you continue to use the same recruiters, you may not see a different pool of candidates. For example, there are active alumni organizations for historically black colleges and universities in the Bay Area. First of all, did you know that these organizations exist, and then, secondly, are you ensuring that your company is connected with these organizations to be part of their consideration process?
It makes good business sense for all companies to ensure they have the best minds and the best ideas, and have the most expansive base. For example, if your developers are only men, you’re going to miss out on a whole slew of things that may be attractive, or unattractive, to female customers. The same thing goes for cultural diversity.
Who has been the biggest personal influence in your life?
My mother. She, along with my father, both let me know that I can be, and do, whatever I want to, and to always maintain that perspective. If you want to do something, then work hard and be consistent. She modelled that in her life.
If you could have dinner with any female, past or present, who would you choose?
Condoleezza Rice. I think that she’s brilliant and I think that she has a perspective of the world that is slightly different than mine, and I’d love to hear about how she came up with that perspective, given how she grew up and what she experienced once she became a woman in power.
For women or people of minority cultures, just starting out their careers, what challenges do you think they face, and what is one piece of advice that you would wish to give to them?
A main challenge would be access. Access to mentors, access to understanding process and procedure. More and more often now, ‘who you know’ bears greater importance. Oftentimes, when you are – in any way – part of an unrepresented group, breaking into that ‘who you know’ can be challenging in gaining access into a company.
My advice to anyone is to be persistent and to network. Do informational interviews with executives. Join professional organizations that will provide you access to people you may not meet otherwise. Don’t just buy into other people’s perspective or impression of you, as you may miss out. So, first, be prepared and be confident with what you bring to the table, and then definitely be persistent.