Security Staff Acquisition & Development, Uncategorized, Content

Splunk Conference Delivers Diversity (Without Preaching About It)

I came to Splunk.conf 2018 seeking to learn about big data, data science, analytics and SIEM (security information and event management). But in addition to all that, I got a silent but strong lesson in diversity.

By my count, roughly half of the conference keynote speakers on Tuesday and Wednesday were women -- though the figure may actually be higher. Yup, the speakers also included men and women from a range of ethnic backgrounds. And the conference content has been great.

As I digested the conference content, I also realized:

  • I haven't seen nor needed to see an announcement about that on-stage diversity.
  • I hadn't noticed any specific conversations, panels or sessions about "women in technology."

Instead, diversity among the keynote speakers just "is".  I think the approach likely speaks to an authentic commitment to diversity at Splunk.

At A Glance: Splunk Diversity

Admittedly, I don't have all the facts in terms of what Splunk is doing right (or wrong) on the diversity front. A quick check of Splunk's website reveals that:

Still, I haven't really dug into the company's HR policies or culture to see if Splunk addresses equal pay for equal work and other key social issues.

Splunk.conf 2018 keynote speakers and centrer-stage demos
Splunk.conf 2018 keynote speakers and centrer-stage demos

Who's Got the Spotlight?

In our hyper-sensitive culture, perception often becomes reality. And reality can often damage perception. In the IT market, tech conferences are frequently dominated by men -- and the world has noticed.

The RSA Conference earlier this year faced a boycott from some activists because conference organizers initially did a poor job of lining up  women as speakers. The result: A rival, more diverse conference sprung up across the street from RSA's gathering. (RSA Conference later updated its content to feature more female speakers.)

More recently, a reader emailed me -- expressing concern that I frequently moderate conference panels that only feature white men. I took the feedback to heart, though I also pushed back quite a bit on some of the anecdotal stuff. The panel the reader questioned involved CEOs from an IT market sector where the top six market executives truly were white men. The panel was about how they built their businesses. I can't change the facts.

But I can help to change the future. My email exchange with that upset reader made me pause. I'm certainly not suggesting that we mandate, regulate, pressure or shame our way to diversity. But our collective failure to address diversity -- and truly find the best person for every job -- has prompted the regulators to step in.

Instead of waiting around for more regulations, be proactive for all the right reasons: Go find the absolutely best person for the job. Look beyond the people who look, act and think like you. You might be surprised by the resulting diversity within your company -- much in the way that I was impressed by the talent on stage at Splunk.conf 2018.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.