By Lori-Ann Livingston, marketing and business development, Boxbrite Technologies
A solar tech company based in Ontario, Canada, has discovered the value of a diverse workforce, as well as its challenges and benefits. Boxbrite Technologies develops software solutions for renewable energy systems. 70% of the company’s workforce is made up of highly skilled, highly educated newcomers to Canada. The staff is nearly 50/50 in gender parity as well.
“Boxbrite is focused on offering our solutions to the world. We need newcomers’ voices to accomplish this green energy revolution going forward,” said Leon Kehl, owner of the company. “What’s exciting at this time is the opportunity to work together, across cultures and nationalities to solve these problems.”
With statistics to back it up, hiring diverse employees is a move that other renewable energy companies would do well to mimic.
Companies employing people who are ethnically and racially diverse are 35% more likely to have financial gains above the national industry median, according to McKinsey’s report, “Diversity Matters”. The study also found that companies with more gender diversity are more likely to benefit financially above the national industry median.
For Kehl, it’s not just smart, it’s the right thing to do. Although a relatively new field, green energy is now a worldwide phenomenon; there are fewer barriers for newcomers to contribute to a company’s success. Countries all over the world use the same vendors and suppliers, and technology makes it easier to work with people in other countries.
“We are all connected and sharing the same planet. When Amazon’s forests are burning, that has an impact on all of us. We can’t solve the world’s problems in isolation. We are forced to work together,” he said. “Using our North American advantages – opportunities, education, infrastructure – to help others can move the solar tech industry, in particular, forward.”
The Boxbrite team is composed of data scientists from Iran and Turkey, software engineers and developers from Turkey and quality assurance specialists from India. Kehl noted that language barriers can present challenges to the work.
“For those newcomers who are still learning the language and culture, there will often be someone else on the team who speaks the same language and can assist in getting them settled in,” he said. “We try to find opportunities to challenge our newcomers. Many have had to overcome significant obstacles to come here to North America, and we harness that grit and determination to succeed.”
Niloofar Abbasvandi, originally from Iran, is a data scientist for Boxbrite. She came to Canada as a post-doctoral visitor interested in both research and working in the solar tech industry.
“Since PV panels’ roles are based on physics, and Boxbrite needed data analysts and researchers, this captured my interest,” she said. “Despite thinking nothing else would be more interesting than black holes for me personally, I discovered this work comes close.”
The company focuses on creating an environment where newcomers can thrive; Kehl’s experience has shown this approach creates trusted capable long-term employees, which in turn dramatically helps long-term success.
“Although we develop solutions using software, we recognize the importance of starting with people,” says Kehl. “When an employee, a newcomer to Canada, buys their first house, achieves a goal, or accomplishes something that might not have happened if they hadn’t worked for us, that makes my day.”
Abbasvandi says she feels a sense of belonging and commitment to the company, and to the broader cause of environmental stewardship.
“I just wanted a job so I could live, so I could be safe. In Boxbrite, you have a family, not a boss. I want to improve myself, to be useful to this company,” she says. “It is important to me to understand why we’re all raising our voices. This industry has the ability to improve future generations’ understanding about the environment, and renewable and non-renewable resources.”
Kehl also thinks about the global impact that solar power and solar technology are making on the world.
“Without these voices at the table going forward, how can we possibly succeed?” says Kehl. “When it comes to the green energy revolution, we need 100% of people helping, not just those of us who have more choices available to us because of the accident of birth.”