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  • “At Proofpoint we believe that cultivating a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment is the right thing to do”

    The Sync NI team sat down with Tom Keating VP, Essentials and Belfast Site Leader at Proofpoint Northern Ireland to discuss the company's journey with diversity and inclusion and why it is now such a vital aspect of the organisation. 

    Over the last number of years Proofpoint has committed itself to demonstrating diversity and inclusion thoroughly within the company. Since the company started its journey into diversity and inclusion Tom Keating says it “has become part of its DNA.” 

    Throughout Proofpoint there are currently a number of initiatives to ensure that it is a diverse and inclusive place to work. Firstly, Tom tells us about the NeuroLeadership Institute which includes work on learning journeys, unconscious bias and inclusive teamwork and is offered company wide. 

    Tom doesn’t refer to these workshops as “training” because he believes “that gives the wrong message.” Instead, he prefers to call them “education.” He believes that prior to such education everyone has their own, individual interpretations of what they think diversity and inclusion is, however, by taking the time to dig deeper and learn more on the topic it can really open people’s eyes and improve understanding on how it operates in our day-to-day – and how they may have lacked understanding to begin with. This in turn helps people to be much more conscious of how they behave and how they operate. 

    Proofpoint has also enlisted external support with their diversity and inclusion journey by inviting featured speakers who have experience in the topic and relevant examples to speak directly to the team, which indeed helps with further reinforcing the education. 

    Diversity and inclusion education is an ‘ongoing journey’ 

    Tom believes one of the most important aspects that have contributed to the company's increasingly diverse and inclusive environment has been the support and backing of initiatives at the top levels of the organisation. Proofpoint’s leadership 100% supports the initiative, which helps all employees recognise the issue as an important thing, not just a classic, ticking the box training exercise. 

    Another key aspect to enable organisations to achieve greater diversity and inclusion is to see the initiatives as more of an “ongoing journey”. Tom believes this helps employees realise this is something to be taken seriously. Tom explains that having team members see these initiatives in their day to day will help them “be reminded about those areas” and that “diversity, inclusion, equality in everything that we’re doing will ensure that we make those right decisions throughout our business day and in our activities.” 

    Tom believes the benefits of implementing diversity and inclusion strategies within the company are endless and he has already begun to see the positive impact it has on the people who work there. 

    He tells us a lot of people have reached out and are very thankful that the organisation is doing this and that they are incorporating this into personal experiences. Tom says these employees see that the challenges they may have faced in other organisations are not a challenge or an issue at Proofpoint. 

    Diverse teams can better solve problems 

    Tom believes that by encouraging diversity and inclusion within the company it becomes a place where people will want to work. Cybersecurity is a very challenging area, where employees are constantly looking to solve challenges and issues to help protect organisations, therefore there is no better workforce to have than one that is diverse and one that is inclusive, because then you're going to get all those different types of people involved, who are going to help you solve those issues with a varied background and knowledge base. 

    Tom explains that this acts as a “self-fulfilling prophecy” because more people want to work within diverse groups as “they feel as if I can be myself here, I don't have to apologise for being myself, I want to be in here as a professional and I will be treated that way.” Tom believes this attitude sets the company up for success and encourages people to stay longer in the organisation. As a result of this, customers can also benefit because the team working for them solves problems more effectively, which really is a cycle security teams want to be a part of. 

    However, it is not just about the success of the company, Tom believes that diversity and inclusion at Proofpoint is really down to the fact that it is the right thing to do. He also adds that: “in the cybersecurity industry we have to stay ahead of these various and complex tasks that we have, you know, you need robust, flexible, highly skilled and diverse teams and in the many reports and studies that have been carried out companies that have a high volume, or high level of ethnic and cultural diversity, have actually outperformed their competitors. There's actual real tangible benefits to this.” 

    Tom concludes that: “At Proofpoint we believe that cultivating a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment is the right thing to do. Diversity ensures that we reflect the global population that we serve. Inclusion, for us, then means that everyone feels welcome and our approach to decision making and problem solving is more productive.” 

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