Why Locus Founder & CEO Nishith Rastogi Believes Thought Diversity is Key to Growth

As companies work towards creating more equitable workplaces, cultivating diversity and inclusivity has risen high on their agendas. According to a McKinsey study, apart from a strong business case, promoting diversity and inclusion also builds resilience, encourages reimagination, and increases workplace productivity.

To explore the importance of diversity and inclusion in the long-term growth of an organization, Locus’ Founder & CEO, Nishith Rastogi gets in conversation with Navin Raina, Head Enterprise Business, LinkedIn India on ‘LinkedIn Leadership Speaks: Demystifying Diversity & Inclusion.

Over a 10-minute conversation, they spoke about the responsibility of founders to uphold a culture that fosters workplace dignity and productivity, the importance of diversity to that end, why promoting thought diversity goes hand-in-hand with promoting cultural and ethnic diversity, among other topics.

Watch this video for all diversity and productivity-related insights:

A Journey of Tremendous Growth and Learning

The conversation began with Nishith recounting Locus’ journey from being a 10-member team in 2016, only to grow to more than 250 in 2021.

“It has been a phenomenal journey for us and primarily possible by the team members…I have had the opportunity to work with people from a wide range of fields, right from microbiology and neuroscience to sports professionals, and that has brought tremendous growth.”

Having an engineering background, Nishith noted that while he never managed people before, it has made for daily learning. “As a matter of fact, 64% of the managers at Locus are first-time people managers, and it has been a great learning experience.”

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion is a Fiduciary Duty of Founders

As custodians of an organization’s culture, Nishith believes that it is the fiduciary duty of founders to provide their team members a great, dignified environment to be their most productive selves and grow together. In his experience, one way to go about this is to promote thought diversity within a team, which involves having people from vastly different backgrounds. 

“When we were hiring PhDs in optimization, not only were we getting people from backgrounds of computational optimization, but also microbiology, and neuroscience. In fact, our Chief of Data Science was busy working on the mRNA-HIV vaccine,” he says, adding that such an approach allows them to attack complex problems from a first-principles approach without any preconceived notions or biases.

Putting Thought Diversity into Practice

When asked about the various ways in which thought diversity is fostered at Locus, Nishith says that gauging their expertise and willingness to explore uncharted territory is a good start.

“I think, checking for the ability to learn and unlearn, coachability, an open mindset, and whether they have been good at anything is important. If they have been learning music and dance for nine years; went to those classes every day, and put in that diligence. I think it is important to value that whether you are evaluating them for a customer success role, a sales role, or a technical role.”

Nishith also spoke about how their quest for creating an equitable and empowering work environment has been highly appreciated by Locus’ team members. He explained how policies around maternal and paternal leave, known as their ‘parenting policy’, go above and beyond the norm to this end. To new mothers and fathers, Locus offers work from home for one year. While new mothers get six months after the birth of their child, even new fathers get three months off.

“Our thesis is that Locus should not come in the way of any one of the parents spending a year with their kid…There is also a very strong message to all the managers to incorporate these changes in individual lifestyles, even in a high-growth environment.”

Trust is Foundational to Promoting Diversity in a Team

For founders looking to create an environment that brings out the best in their teammates, Nishith says that the key to building is to start from a place of trust and be a custodian of the culture on which they have founded the organization. “You’re hiring adults; trust them and walk the rope. I think that the rest will fall in place.”

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