Leaderspeak With Karolina Kocalevski
Team Meytier was honored to speak with Karolina Kocalevski, Global Head of Marketing & Communications at Orion Innovation. Karolina is doubly meaningful to us as Orion has been a trusted client of ours since our inception, and Karolina found this role through Meytier. We continue to be impressed by her passion, insight, and dedication to her work.
Over the last couple of years, we've been blown away by the conscious change in diversity at Orion. We now see many women leaders and people of different backgrounds on your leadership teams. Most companies struggle to bring in and retain women. Will you share with us what has worked well for your organization to make this happen?
We’re a global company. We’ve always had an inclusive culture. We’re in the tech space, and we acknowledge that it's a very male dominated industry. So we have to work that much harder if we want women to rise into leadership roles. We’re very ambitious in how we want to grow and if we really want to accelerate our company’s growth, we need to bring in new skill sets, new talent, new points of view.
When it comes to retaining women - I was impressed from the day I came that there was such a strong vision in where we wanted to go as a company and so much confidence in what we had to offer the business world. It inspired me. It made me feel like Orion was a company that's impacting the business world and that I could help them with this vision. I've been here two years now and since day one I've really felt like part of the family. There's something about the culture of this company. There's a friendliness and camaraderie that I haven't seen in other places. We have an all hands on deck mentality- so there aren’t huge ownership grabs for opportunities. It's a really unique place and it's a place I want to stay. This is the kind of culture that women love. We love being part of a team. This inclusivity comes from the very top. The leadership at Orion sets the precedent for the culture of the rest of the company.
How has Orion's commitment to diversity impacted the organization overall?
We're a diverse, global company. We've made a lot of acquisitions recently and have grown rapidly. Currently, about a third of our workforce is in the U.S, a third in Asia, and a third in Europe. It’s very important to us that we celebrate our uniqueness and our differences given that we’re so evenly spread across the globe. We make a huge effort to know each other on a deep personal level. We celebrate each other’s holidays, Christmas, Diwali, Thanksgiving, etc. The tone at the very top is that we’re inclusive and we celebrate differences. That gets passed to employees through messages around the kinds of training we expect them to do as well as the mindset we expect them to have around diversity. It's not just the right thing to do, it helps us do business. Just this year, we've rolled out voluntary diversity and inclusion training and about 70% of employees did it. There is a precedent to want to do better and to learn more.
We have a firm belief that women don't look for jobs the same way men do. They ask for fewer referrals, they are not as active with networking because of conflicting responsibilities and many other reasons. And similarly for other diverse and intersectional groups. Do you do anything differently to attract candidates who are from different backgrounds?
We want to attract more women to our organization who might not otherwise seek us out. We’re very conscious of ensuring a diverse slate for every role. If there isn't a diverse slate, we keep going. We want to make sure we have the best candidate for every job, and that means finding a diverse pool of candidates. Our head of technical recruitment is a woman and just having women in those key positions when it comes to hiring decisions helps us be focused on this. In the U.S, there have been a lot of conversations about race recently and this has prompted some serious discussions about what our company makeup is and where we can be doing better. Part of that has been exploring opportunities to contribute to organizations that bring technology education to minorities and put our engineers out to teach for those programs. When we can get involved in those sorts of programs we could find a more diverse group of interns and potential candidates.
Tougher question - what remains to be done? What are your priorities from an overall diversity perspective for the next couple of years and beyond?
We’re moving forward with training and education, it’s an ongoing, ever-evolving process. Our Internship program is brand new but we’re really hungry to incorporate more people who bring new ideas. We’re growing rapidly and we can't just grow and grow without thoughtfully bringing in new people, new ideas and new skill sets, sensitivities, and experiences. We need to bring in new ways of thinking. It helps us connect with companies who are more diverse. It helps us innovate. Diversity makes us stronger.
Tell us about your own journey. Who / what helped you believe in yourself to rise into this role and how do you pay it forward?
I've been very fortunate that I've stumbled across this company that has a CEO and a leadership team that is so trusting of one another and so integrated in how we approach the market. I feel empowered to try new things, and that comes directly from our CEO. He values others’ opinions. He’ll debate them, but he values them. He really encourages me to rise into this role. He's very accessible, as are the other leaders he's brought into this company. They're inclusive, respectful, and dedicated. They’re all a reflection of his values. No one has all the answers, but we’re a team. We always make an effort to work together. Having this cultural fit is so important with your peers in rising into a role and feeling like you can take risks.
When it comes to paying it forward, I started an initiative with some colleagues before COVID to create a women in tech group at Orion. We have a lot of hard working, quiet women at Orion. We want to give them the opportunity to come together, share, and come out of their shells a bit. This project is how I intend to help and pay it forward. I also have quite a few women on my team. I make an effort to give them opportunities to handle hard projects. I remain a resource to them throughout these projects, but I want to extend that same faith to them that has been extended to me to trust them enough to let go and allow them to handle big projects.
You are a unique person for us to interview because you also worked with us as a candidate through this process. How was your experience applying through Meytier? Was this job search different from others you've been through?
I do have a couple of things to say about this, because it was a great experience for me. Meytier found me and from the very beginning, they engaged me in the vision of Orion. I was hooked from that moment. Meytier was very careful to make sure that this was a fit for me and a fit for Orion. What I found a little different from other interview experiences was that from the beginning there was a level of respect for the career I'd had already, they’d reviewed my profile and everything that I'd done. They understood what I brought to the table. It built a level of mutual respect. That level of respect is something I haven't seen in a lot of other places through the interview process. In many other instances, I've gone through the interview process of great companies for great opportunities and the interview process left me feeling a little icky. Like they were trying to catch me in a lie or didn't believe me. With Meytier, there was a presumption of trust and respect. I really appreciated that. The transparency from the beginning made me realize early on that there was a strong fit at Orion.