Q&A with Mohamad Ali - “Not Just the Business Benefits”

DEIDiversity & CultureBoard and CEO AdvisoryHuman Resources Officers
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Jamie Hechinger
July 07, 2016
4 min read
DEIDiversity & CultureBoard and CEO AdvisoryHuman Resources Officers
How has the D&I journey aligned with Carbonite's strategic objectives? What programs have you introduced to drive progress?



"Not just the business benefits"—Jamie Hechinger interviews Mohamad Ali, chief executive officer of Carbonite, on the importance of diversity and inclusion to Carbonite's culture and financial success. 

"Our investors have responded very positively to our active approach to diversity and inclusion. I recently received a note from an investor who said, 'Previously I was a happy investor, now I am also a proud investor.'"

Mohamad is chief executive officer of Carbonite, where he has led the company for four years. Previously, he served as chief strategy officer at Hewlett-Packard, where he played a pivotal role in the company's turnaround. At IBM, Mohamad led the creation of the firm's $8 billion business analytics software unit, and at Avaya, he oversaw the company's $2 billion services group. He was also the CEO of the Workforce Optimization division of Aspect Software. Mohamad also serves on the boards of iRobot, Oxfam America and the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council. 

Jamie Hechinger: You've been at Carbonite four years now. Please tell us about how the D&I journey has aligned with your other early objectives. 

Mohamad Ali: There were significant structural issues when I joined Carbonite. My first year was focused on rebuilding the talent base. I started by listening. The inclusive nature of this approach allowed me to ferret out great ideas from people who hadn't previously had a voice. 

When I arrived, our strategy team was homogenous. Now, we have three women and two men from the various core disciplines of our organization. Having gender diversity as well as participation across sectors and functional expertise enables our strategy team to arrive at better answers. The most innovative companies are those finding solutions at the intersection of disciplines. 

Now in my forth year, our stock price has tripled and the size of our company has doubled. Our new objective is to build on these changes to create a durable culture. This means paying attention to the elements that are essential, including D&I. 

Jamie Hechinger:  What are some of the programs you've initiated to advance this objective? 

Mohamad Ali: Our markets are highly diverse and we need a diverse group of employees to create the right products for the right demographic segments. We don't currently have a good mechanism in place to access a diverse talent pool, so we partnered with a program called Hack. Diversity. It recruits Black and Latino/a computer science and engineering students into Boston companies and trains, coaches and mentors both the employer and employee.  

We're currently undertaking a third-party D&I assessment, interviewing affinity groups within our organization. We will come up short in several key areas—and knowing the specifics will help us make necessary changes more effectively. 

We've also taken a more deliberately balanced approach to executive recruiting. Our newest board member is a woman as are our most recent VP hires. We try to ensure that half of our executive candidates are female and then hire the best candidate from that pool. 

Jamie Hechinger: Has this focus on D&I impacted your bottom line? 

Mohamad Ali:  Studies show that D&I benefits the bottom line, but companies that practice D&I solely for that reason often find that it doesn't work. People see through it. Intention, value and authenticity have to be there to make it work. I have personally been in meetings where my presence made the group racially diverse, but I was not really a full participant. So when I am in a meeting, I make sure everyone is heard. Inclusion doesn't mean everyone goes to every meeting, but rather that if you are at a meeting you are heard.  

Our investors have also responded very positively to our active approach to D&I. I recently received a note from an investor who said, "Previously I was a happy investor, now I am also a proud investor." 

Thank you, Mohamad.