Lauren Fitzpatrick Shanks is the founder and CEO of KeepWOL and an award-winning engineer and tech chief, who spent fourteen years working at 5 Fortune 500 corporations, holding varied management roles in design, system testing, product creation, staffing, software program program administration, and operations. Lauren is the primary Black girl to graduate from The College of Kansas’ Aerospace Engineering Division and the primary Black girl to win the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) worldwide design competitors.
KeepWOL is a game-centric expertise improvement platform that mixes reside multiplayer video games, AI expertise, and end-to-end studying integration to deeply perceive how workers assume and what influences their selections.
Might you focus on the way you selected engineering as a profession path, and even pursued a bachelor’s diploma in Aerospace Engineering, all whereas realizing that it was not the most effective match for you?
I wouldn’t say that engineering wasn’t an ideal match for me. By nature, I’m curious and analytical. I’ve an uncanny skill to visualise processes and objects earlier than they’re even prototyped or in movement. I’ve nice mechanical aptitude too. All these persona traits are attribute of many engineers. What I might say is that girls, particularly Black ladies, haven’t had a powerful presence on this area. Whereas I wasn’t intimidated or postpone by this actuality, I did undergo some darkish occasions particularly whereas attending college.
As a result of neither the scholars nor the lecturers understood me and my life experiences, I felt misplaced. Relationships had been difficult to construct, my psychological well being was horrible, and I continuously questioned altering my main. Are you able to think about feeling the necessity to change your whole trajectory since you don’t really feel such as you belong? I caught with it although and my perseverance led me to change into the primary Black girl to graduate from The College of Kansas’ Aerospace Engineering Division and the primary Black girl to win the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) worldwide design competitors. I’ve taken all the pieces I’ve realized alongside the way in which and poured these classes into the founding of KeepWOL.
You labored at a number of Fortune 500 corporations and made some strategic profession selections to wind up in software program engineering. What had been a few of these decisions and the way did you ultimately uncover you had been keen about software program?
In my 14 years at Fortune 500 corporations, I found that their range, fairness, inclusion, and belonging applications (DEIB) had been extra for vainness metrics. It was this discovery that led me down the trail of making a software-based resolution to this downside. The probabilities of software program to resolve a few of life’s biggest challenges is limitless. And with as we speak’s expertise, resembling AI and machine studying, we’re pushing the boundaries even additional.
So far as profession selections, for me, it’s been about taking possibilities and recognizing that I could be the one limiting myself. So meaning taking dangers and I do take a variety of dangers – greater than I ever imagined myself taking. I at all times inform folks to use for the roles they’re not certified for on paper. I wasn’t certified to be an entrepreneur after I launched my enterprise. Not in line with my resume.
As a result of I’ve taken so many dangers, I’ve additionally made a variety of errors. But when I hadn’t made these errors, I wouldn’t have realized from them and I wouldn’t be the place I’m as we speak. All through my profession and as I used to be going by way of company America, I used to be initially targeted on climbing the company ladder. Whereas I progressed and made extra money, I additionally wished to be in a spot the place the setting and tradition felt good to me. Sadly, I skilled the alternative and was continuously hitting a wall – feeling like I used to be on the surface wanting in.
All my positions had been in engineering and tech. Since I’m an engineer, I started to assume, how can I clear up this ‘feeling like an outsider’ downside? Company America has had an issue with how they go about expertise improvement and the way they make groups and other people really feel included and like they belong. Not one of the applications that they had in place had been geared round retention or making certain the success of various hires. What was worse, is that managers obtained no coaching on managing, main, motivating, and speaking with folks from all walks of life. I watched workers both undergo and supply lower than optimum output or get fed up and depart. I acknowledged that I couldn’t repair this downside from inside the firm I used to be in. I needed to come out to construct the answer.
With KeepWOL, I’m constructing a B2B studying and improvement tech firm. My background is in aerospace engineering, and I’ve an MBA in operations administration. I don’t have any expertise in B2B gross sales, and I’ve no levels in organizational improvement. What I did have is my lived experiences and what I’ve been by way of.
What had been a few of these moments while you actually felt such as you had been a non-belonger or outsider?
Being the “solely” or the “first” typically led to feeling lonely and never understood. However it additionally impressed me to push for change from each a scholastic and office perspective. A few of my darkest moments concerned watching colleagues and coworkers hand over on their goals or exit an organization as a result of they felt like they didn’t belong.
Considered one of my biggest strengths is my skill to get folks to interrupt down their vulnerability partitions by way of my curiosity in actually attending to know somebody as an individual earlier than the rest. My reward allowed me to construct real connections with folks that I had nothing in frequent with from the floor degree. So, to observe nice folks depart a area of examine or job they liked simply because they felt like an outsider actually damage on a deep degree.
I’ll be susceptible with you and share a scenario that took me over a decade to obtain closure and guarantee nobody else skilled it. Throughout my senior 12 months in my aerospace engineering program, I had a category meant to “put together” me for the workforce. Wow, did it ever put together me to really feel like I wasn’t welcomed or valued. One of many assignments on this class was to record the highest three folks within the class we want to work with in business and the highest three folks we’d completely not wish to work with and supply this with out rationalization. When the outcomes got here again, zero folks wished to work with me, and twelve folks mentioned they might not wish to work with me. My senior graduating class was a category of twelve.
I spent hours drafting an e-mail letting my professor know the way I felt about that project, and I by no means hit ship. I went into his workplace the following day, and as a substitute, I requested him, “What ought to I do about the truth that the entire class would by no means need to work with me?” His response to me was, “You don’t have to fret about that since you’re, , African American and a girl. You’ll haven’t any downside discovering a job.”
This was my preparation for being an “outsider” in company America. My deserves, excessive GPA, and quite a few internships had no sense of worth to him. I used to be a verify within the field, a quota filler.
In 2021 I met with two Black (one girl and one man) latest aerospace grads, they usually advised me this project was nonetheless taking place and, to my shock, with a brand new professor! I went to the affiliate Dean of DEI and made them conscious of this project and the way it affected me, different ladies, and different folks of coloration. This one dialog was sufficient for the brand new affiliate Dean to make sure that this custom was put to an finish. Nonetheless, it’s unlucky that I needed to carry that have unresolved for eleven years.
For companies which can be managed by white males who fail to instinctively perceive the significance of inclusion, belonging, and variety, how do you clarify how detrimental it’s for workers to really feel this manner?
Range, fairness, inclusion, and belonging are main buzzwords within the enterprise world today, and for good purpose. Research after examine exhibits that valuing workers for his or her variations and together with totally different views in your workforce drives progress each in your group and past. Let’s have a look at statistics earlier than we have a look at the human factor:
- S. firms spend $177 billion yearly on expertise improvement. However, with labor competitors intensifying amid the Nice Resignation, expectations are rising.
- Staff at the moment are demanding extra various alternatives and have change into outspoken about what is going to gasoline their motivations and loyalty. Gadgets of excessive significance embrace coaching and progressive DEIB options.
- Based on a latest examine, 85 p.c of ladies and 74 p.c of males search employers with range and inclusion
- Corporations which can be extra inclusive are 7 occasions extra more likely to be leaders in innovation. Researchers say that’s because of the various views, mindsets, and experiences that include a various workforce.
- When range extends to the chief crew, organizations are 25% extra probably to have higher-than-average profitability, too.
Past statistics, having an engaged workforce is a morale injection. Engagement performs into crew dynamics and innovation, straight impacting job satisfaction, which is what retains workers and lowers turnover, saving corporations a number of cash. When all workers really feel seen, heard, and revered by one another, that’s when creativity and productiveness thrive.
As for people, a scarcity of range causes detriments to academic outcomes, bodily and psychological well being, lifetime achievement and earnings, and wealth handed down throughout generations. DEIB must be a strategic precedence throughout an organization, with management buy-in and participation.
How does KeepWOL gamify guided immersive experiences to assist groups to precise themselves?
Once more, working in engineering and tech my whole profession, I skilled how robust it’s to be susceptible on this area. Nonetheless, I acknowledged that my groups had been most efficient when genuine connections and friendships had been constructed from common open, trustworthy, and deep communication, which requires vulnerability. This doesn’t come simply for many workplaces, and conventional team-building actions don’t present frequent, significant interactions. That’s why I created KeepWOL, which is firstly a confirmed communication system that builds tight-knit inclusive groups throughout borders, generations, cultures, and backgrounds.
When taking part in video games, all of us begin on equal footing. Every of us has a chance to win, and as people, all of us have a need to win. Video games and gamification faucet into the mind’s reward middle and sometimes require fast considering, disarming you, though some are extra aggressive than others. Video games are additionally concerning the luck of the draw. They permit us to be free whereas nonetheless having a component of management. Randomization, not with the ability to put together, and the paradox of video games carry out authenticity inside gamers.
KeepWOL’s goal is to offer context particulars into the individual behind the worker, dad or mum, associate, or another “label” positioned upon us and permit others to develop from these learnings. Each one in all our video games enable for self-expression, even those which have a transparent concentrate on productiveness and improvement. For instance, our recreation known as Forming focuses on the forming-stage of crew improvement. The forming stage entails a interval of orientation and getting acquainted. Uncertainty is excessive throughout this stage and infrequently crew members aren’t certain what questions they need to be asking. Groups additionally don’t know one another effectively or have a basis of belief constructed to totally categorical their ideas, concepts, or wants. This recreation helps groups ask the appropriate inquiries to set a strong basis for understanding and quick progress.
What are the advantages to companies and workers to have this degree of expression?
When trying to instill DEIB into the workforce, many organizations depend on strategies like lectures, panels, surveys, and pre-recorded movies. These is perhaps useful in disseminating info, however these methods fall quick on the subject of altering worker conduct, primarily as a result of they happen as one-offs and don’t concentrate on the ins-and-outs of on a regular basis work life. And they aren’t personalized for the way in which a person worker learns and grows.
Interpersonal expertise resembling communication, listening, vulnerability, empathy, and compassion should be practiced. Through the use of KeepWOL with (distant and onsite) groups on a recurring foundation, organizations will see a extra engaged workforce, higher crew dynamics, the power for workers to seamlessly transfer from one group to a different, elevated retention, a lift in collaboration and innovation, and a optimistic influence on the corporate’s backside line.
In what methods are machine studying or AI used with KeepWOL?
Our game-centric expertise improvement platform for groups makes use of reside multiplayer video games, AI expertise, and end-to-end studying integration to maximise cultural intelligence within the office. The platform hosts a digital library of psychology-based video games that use storytelling to subtly uncover connections and overcome vulnerability to actually nurture inclusion and crew bonding.
KeepWOL’s pure language processing (NLP) AI expertise makes use of gameplay outcomes to ship academic content material primarily based on user-specific targets and most popular studying kinds. Looking out by way of thousands and thousands of coaching programs to seek out the appropriate one might be a factor of the previous. KeepWOL provides content material strategies that meet customers’ wants and not using a single search by connecting to academic content material databases.
Our platform is powered by software program however pushed by people. As a result of we’re innovating so quick, and doing so by listening to our clients, we’re targeted on offering options instantly, as quickly as our clients say they want them. We’re doing a variety of constructing with no-code options together with customized coding. This permits us to be extraordinarily agile with a really lean crew and permits us to maneuver quick throughout these energetic pilots now we have happening.
We keep ahead considering on the subject of the Metaverse, VR, AR, and XR. Whereas these are novel and thrilling, we don’t need to lose concentrate on the human factor that drives our software program and meets our buyer wants. Our aim is at all times to make our clients’ lives simpler, take away their ache factors, and hold folks and good working relationships on the forefront of any resolution we offer.
AI corporations are sometimes a number of the worst offenders on the subject of having a various workforce, why is it essential particularly for AI corporations to think about using KeepWOL?
With rising emphasis on moral AI, researchers and builders are speeding to construct unbiased, honest software program techniques to resolve real-world issues that don’t disenfranchise massive swaths of society. But, at their very core, they aren’t doing sufficient inside their very own organizations to foster inclusivity and variety. When recruiting and hiring, range and inclusion are too typically guidelines gadgets. Sadly, too many corporations, together with AI corporations, have engineered “quotas” to make it seem as if they’re making the hassle to incorporate folks in underrepresented teams. This is named tokenism, which Webster defines as “the observe of doing one thing (resembling hiring an individual who belongs to a minority group) solely to forestall criticism and provides the looks that individuals are being handled pretty.”
KeepWOL may help AI corporations construct a extra inclusive and various workforce. Our platform helps groups enhance their innovation and creativity. Range of thought, upbringing, skills, and expertise play an enormous issue within the lengths one’s creativeness can go. While you carry collectively people with a extra complete perspective of the world, you’re more likely to seek out frequent issues that have an effect on a number of communities and supply an answer that meets every of their wants. KeepWOL permits groups to carry info to the floor. Actually, 80 p.c of our customers say KeepWOL permits conversations and insights to return to gentle that in any other case wouldn’t floor.
While you’re capable of assume outdoors the proverbial field of what range means, you’re capable of faucet into expertise swimming pools that present diamonds within the tough prepared to rework the trajectory of your product, advertising and marketing, and gross sales efforts with novel methods of approaching new buyer segments. As a result of folks don’t purchase what they’ll’t relate to.
When workers, in any respect firm ranges, appear to be the communities they’re servicing, the corporate is much less more likely to make simply avoidable errors that trigger lawsuits or PR nightmares. Having various personnel not solely will increase income however saves corporations cash and goodwill.
Is there the rest that you simply want to share about KeepWOL?
We have now been working with a number of the largest gamers within the healthcare and tech industries and amassing a variety of insightful knowledge throughout varied fields. We’re excited concerning the outcomes KeepWOL is offering to workers by maximizing cultural intelligence and measurably enhancing job satisfaction.
Thanks for the good interview, it is a nice idea and I look ahead to following your progress. Readers who want to study extra ought to go to KeepWOL.