Diversity and Inclusion at Bilue

At Bilue we firmly believe that diversity is core to our success. As the mobile and emerging technology company our aim is to mobilise millions and we know the best way we can help our clients do so is by having a diverse set of people who contribute their unique ideas, skills and perspectives to all our work. As a company, we consider every form of diversity important, including age, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, sexual orientation, disability, socio-economic background and more.

Not only do we strongly believe this is the case, it’s also backed up by research conducted by professors from highly respected institutions such as the Kellogg School of Management, as well as a report from the The Anita Borg Institute which takes insights from sources such as McKinsey & Company, Catalyst, Columbia University, and the London School of Business. For example, a study noted in the report, conducted at Carnegie Mellon, found that workgroups containing “at least one female outperformed all-male groups in collective intelligence tests”, and “group intelligence is more strongly correlated with diversity than with the IQs of individual members.

Throughout the life of the company, Bilue has always strived to be a great place to work for people of all backgrounds, needs, and situations. We’ve always worked flexibly, with options for altered working hours or working from home depending on the needs of each individual, and we’ve even hosted kids (and dogs!) in the office when people needed that option. Despite this, we haven’t always been able to find the diverse set of applicants we’re hoping for whenever we look to fill new positions.

 

One of the areas we recently identified as an area for improvement is our recruitment strategy. We’ve recently reworded and reworked the language in our job descriptions, job ads and throughout the interview process, to ensure anyone and everyone feels like they would be welcome and could do their best work at Bilue. We found https://www.hiremorewomenintech.com very useful, although it’s just targeted towards increasing gender diversity in organisations, for tips on how to remove bias during the interview process and our job post descriptions to make them applicable to more diverse applicants. Another action we’ve taken in the last 6 months is to take a more proactive approach to finding candidates. Whereas previously it was common for us to post a job ad on LinkedIn, SEEK and other popular job sites and wait for the applications to come in, we now actively look to the community for the best candidates we can possibly find. We use our LinkedIn networks, our social media accounts and our connections in the community to find candidates who fulfil our goals of having the most diverse and skilled team possible. There is definitely still work to do in this space, and we hope to push this further as we reach into the relevant communities to find an even broader set of people with potential to add value to Bilue.

 

At this stage, it’s important to reflect on where we are today to set a benchmark for where we’d like to be in a year from now. Today, across our Melbourne and Sydney offices, we are a team of 30 in total. Looking at Bilue overall, we represent 10 nationalities and the gender balance is 17% women and 83% men. We will revisit this in 6 and 12 months time.  

 

So what’s next for Bilue….

 

We will be focusing our efforts in a couple of key areas. Firstly, the existing culture at Bilue. National Inclusion Week earlier this month was a timely reminder that creating an inclusive environment cannot be forgotten on the quest to diversity, they go hand in hand and need individual strategies. We will be utilitising Culture Amp, an employee feedback platform, to regularly pulse check the business and our progress towards our initiative goals. Culture Amp allows us to be data driven and gives equal weight to every member of the team’s perspective. The first survey through the platform will focus on measuring the level of inclusion, to ensure our culture is at a place where it can support the initiatives being rolled out. The results of this should be finalised by Christmas, after which we will move our focus towards understanding the level of employee engagement, which we believe is tied in with inclusion.

 

Secondly, as we grow our team the focus will be on hiring for culture add not culture fit. Culture is always changing, we want new employees to bring their own personality and character to build on what we already have. Shifting from ‘culture fit’, which has been an industry practice until recently, to looking for ‘culture add’ is essential for our diversity efforts to thrive.

Bilue – An SAP Partner At Last!

In 1999, I fell into the SAP world by way of a job offer from Deloitte Consulting. I always thought working with SAP would be a temporary state of affairs. But almost 20 years later and still going proves that my crystal ball was somewhat faulty.

 

I reached a bit of a turning point a few years ago when my daughter, who was about 3 yrs old at that point, came to me complaining that the TV was broken. Turns out the TV was fine - it was just her expectation that swiping across the screen to change the channels that had to be managed…

 

At that time I was working on  an idea for a startup and had become obsessed by user experience. My daughter and the TV was just another example (albeit louder and more persistent) of how the way younger generations develop expectations about how to interact with technology. I could see a pretty big problem heading towards companies using SAP. I mean, what’s the likely reaction you're going to get to a SAPGui screen from a Gen Y that arranges something as complex as their love life by swiping left or swiping right on their smartphone?

 

SAP & User Experience?

After almost 20 years working with SAP ERP I can assure you the number of times I had heard the terms 'SAP' and 'user experience' used together were few and far between. And when it did happen it wasn't complementary! Sure, Fiori was released to much fanfare - the first notable UI update since R/3 was released in 1992, almost 30 years prior - but the problem was that Fiori mobile & desktop apps were being delivered by people very experienced with SAP but with little to no idea about how to design with the user front of mind. By 2016 I started to see Fiori apps being built and rolled out with a very low uptake amongst the user communities. Not a great result for anyone.

 

Who Is Bilue?

Around this time I met Cameron Barrie, the founder of a company called Bilue. Turned out Bilue was a user experience design, mobile and emerging technologies company having worked with some of Australia's largest brands on their consumer facing iOS & Android apps. Companies like Woolworths, NineMSN, Domain and more recently Ticketek, Stan and Cricket Australia.

 

Unfortunately for me, ideas for revolutionary startups don't necessarily pay the bills so when Cameron called one day on the back of SAP and Apple announcing their new iOS SDK as an output of their Enterprise Partnership we started to talk more seriously.

 

We agreed that given Bilue's rich heritage in iOS and strong relationship with Apple it would be interesting to look at how to leverage Bilue's experience in the consumer space in the enterprise world especially given the evolving relationship between SAP and Apple.

 

User centric design is a great example of how to take an approach from the consumer world into the enterprise world - when you roll out a new mobile app for consumers for a well known brand there's a good chance you're going to have a few million users on Day 1. And no chance of a Change Management program to support it! The Bilue approach means that every app built is inspiring, intuitive and easy to use from the start otherwise it's a lost cause.

 

SAP Cloud Platform & Bilue - A Perfect Fit

When Cameron and I started taking a closer look at SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) beyond the SDK for iOS we found that the capabilities of SAP Cloud Platform around emerging technologies like Blockchain, Machine Learning and IoT mapped closely to the expertise that Bilue had in-house, in addition to design and mobile.

 

And so in September 2017 I came on board to focus on bringing Bilue's expertise in user experience design, mobile and emerging technologies to the enterprise market. All underpinned by SAP.

 

In that time we've been quietly working away…

  • We've built one of the first native iOS apps in the region on SAP using the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS
  • We've built native Android apps on SCP as well (and have the scars to prove it!)
  • We've built out a pilot app with Voice UI on Realwear hooked into SAP ERP via SCP
  • We've worked on a number of design engagements, redesigning 1st generation Fiori apps to be relevant and intuitive on desktop and device
  • We've fostered relationships between SAP customers and Apple as we help SAP customers build out their mobility roadmap
  • We're now working with several organisations on their digital journey which encompasses not just mobility but the bigger picture from capture of data in the field using IoT sensors and drones, to aggregation of that data and subsequent automation of related business processes by leveraging insights that machine learning models can bring to dissemination of the resulting information to help people make informed decisions in the field and on the go.

And though it's taken a while, this week we're finally able to announce that we are now officially an SAP Partner as well with our complete focus being on the capabilities that SAP Cloud Platform provides.

 

All in all, it's been a full-on 8 months! But as I said to someone the other day - I'm pretty lucky that I get to turn up to work with a group of clever guys and girls who think about things a bit differently. And together we get to work out how we apply the latest technology to help solve the problems of our customers.

 

So yes, I’m still working with SAP and probably will be for a little longer yet!

Seizing the emerging tech initiative

I’ve got a few thoughts on the emerging tech space that I’d like to share. It seems to me that there’s a great deal of opportunity that isn’t being exploited to its fullest, and I’d like to propose a way to unblock this.

First some context. Never before have so many emerging technologies matured all at once, and at such pace. In the past five years alone, a vast array of technologies have burst onto the scene led by the tech giants and found their way into the hands of 100s of millions of users – TouchID and FaceID, AR & VR, Machine Learning / AI, Voice products, and so much more have not just become available, but are cheap, widespread and very high quality. And the cheap, enterprise-grade services that support these technologies are no less extensive – just check out this list of Amazon AWS products by way of example. So how should we go about selecting which technologies are right for us?

This presents us with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is sorting through this breadth of technology, as well as even more nascent tech, to uncover the genuine value. The opportunity is to seize the advantage ahead of the competition. And yet there’s a lot of hesitation to seize this opportunity.

There are several well-established design techniques for bringing emerging technology to life, where the choice of technology is made up front and where this choice is the driving force for the project (‘technology led”). But my argument would be that there are too many projects that start with a limited remit in terms of technology choice (“user led” or “business led”) – the technology constraints are determined too early, greatly limiting the potential for unusual solutions that could return much better results. We need a way to meet the needs of the end users, meet business goals AND consider how emerging tech could potentially serve both.

I believe that the role of engineers within these projects needs to evolve. Up until now, their typical involvement would be to validate a suggested approach e.g. “is this possible?”, and “how long might it take to build?”. But the problem nowadays is that designers – and even individual engineers – can’t be expected to have exposure to the full breadth of technology that could solve a given problem. Engineers with deep expertise need to become involved earlier in the process, and be asked far more open questions e.g. “how might we solve this problem?” before the solution has properly taken shape.

For example, we’ve been building iOS and Android apps on the SAP Cloud Platform, and it was vital that the engineers were involved from the very beginning, not just guiding designers on what was possible, but also highlighting platform features that could help us take a better approach. Another example might be that an engineer would be aware of AWS Sumerian or other Machine learning capabilities, and how building models and importing them into CoreML on iOS could provide users with unique value. Engineers often think in a different way to designers, and combining these perspectives is increasingly not just preferable, but vital – especially if it can happen before projects are too strictly defined or constrained.

In John Maeda’s excellent talk at SXSW, he talked about the need to find Computational Designers. This mythical beast not only has a deep understanding of classical design and Design Thinking, but also knows technology inside out – “has facility with representational codes and maybe programming codes. Knows what is easy and possible, hard and possible, difficult and impossible for now”. I applaud the sentiment, but believe this understanding can more practically sit across multiple people each with deep expertise to get the best results.

In addition though, there’s an obligation on the part of designers to actively invest time understanding the world of emerging tech, to bridge the gap with engineers in pursuit of the best outcomes, and help the team become greater than the sum of its parts. We’re lucky at Bilue having great engineers a shoulder-tap away, and for those who aren’t so fortunate there’s an ever-increasing gap to try and bridge. But there are plenty of resources out there for people who are willing to learn. Carpe Diem!

GOTO Conference, Amsterdam

This June one of our stellar Android Developers, Silvio Brasil, made the journey to  the GOTO Conference & Workshop in the city of fries, cheese and poffertjes – Amsterdam. Renown for its insight into cutting edge and trending technologies this year’s overarching theme at GOTO was ‘Digital Transformation’. The two days of workshops saw Silvio dive deep into the world of data science and machine learning so naturally, we wanted to find out what he learnt. 

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Hi Silvio, tell us about the workshops you went to.

The first one was Data Science which explains how to deal with big data and identify patterns between the data and its behaviour. Understanding this was really beneficial for me in gaining a deeper insight into machine learning. It helped me understand the data and how to deal with the data science itself and use this in machine learning. It also gave me a really good grasp of what data scientists are doing and what would be the best way to work with them in the future. Ultimately, it will help me help them.

Day two was learning more about machine learning with TensorFlow and directly correlated with the Data Science workshop. While TensorFlow makes it easier (you don’t need too much code), being very specific in what you are doing and how to handle data goes hand in hand with the data science.

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How will this help your work?

I think in the future everything will be able to handle machine learning. By continuing research in this area and training with TensorFlow it will be easier to apply this to mobile and use within different applications.

 

What was your favourite part about the conference?

Everything. Firstly, Amsterdam itself is an amazing city, a very nice place to go and walk and see a different life. Secondly, the workshop was in a massive conference centre, Beurs van Berlage, that was really quite mind blowing. It was almost hard to pay attention because the ceiling was so high with church pillars – I found that really impressive. On the last day it was a different venue on the other side of the city. The building was an office and it was also nice to see the different lifestyle of work.   

My main goal of going there was to learn more about machine learning and TensorFlow and I think that the workshops were really amazing. Even though it was just two days I learnt so much.

 

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Would you recommend this conference to other developers?

Totally. Not just learning about machine learning itself but the whole package – going to another place, getting lost, people speaking a different language and trying to find your way, asking questions and meeting and talking with people at the conference. It was an amazing experience.

Dank je Silvio!

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Webstock 2017

Renowned as the technology conference with soul”, two of Bilue’s designers, Amy and Anna, took off to Wellington this February to get the latest in the world of design and development. They returned refreshed, revived and replenished with ideas and stories thanks to Webstock and the city of Wellington itself.

cookies-from-conferenceDespite being touted as ‘windy Wellington’, the air was crispy and still. The bright-faced UX passionates gathered at St James Theatre where the conference would take place over the next two days. Webstock’s details were finessed with attention and taste; branded mugs and t-shirts, the abundance of ice-cream sandwiches divine, the stage lighting and setup was clear and colourful. Even the conference credits were considered by including every attendee’s name as though they had all watched a film they were all a part of.

The lineup included an array of speakers with vast experiences. Despite differences in expertise the most memorable talks demonstrated ways in which we, when working in tech, can step outside of our sometimes silo-mentality. Opening our ears, eyes and skills to the processes and people around us, biases can be deconstructed and ideas met with innovation.

The Conference Stage at St James Theatre
Some key notions included

– Kim Goodwin spoke about avoiding UX purgatory. Working across the journey designers can expand their point of view by focusing on the transition between experiences. It’s about ensuring what happens before and after ‘your part’ makes sense and is communicated as smoothly as possible. This comes down to the idea that we’re people and not just roles.

– Jeff Gothelf gave insight to how bigger organisations can scale Agile and Lean UX methodologies at scale. He focussed on four key principles to keep in mind when doing so;

               –  Customer Value = Business Value

               – Value learning over delivery

               – Radical transparency

               –  Humility in all things

– Gothelf emphasised that internal teams already want to work this way, it’s up to decision makers in the business to carve out an environment for teams to work in this way.

– Sacha Judd discussed the biases inherent within the hiring process. This included pattern-matching experiences with those we may onboard and therefore limiting selection.



Sacha also outlined how the stigmas surrounding the tech industry prevent people with relevant skills from feeling welcomed. She used the example of fantasy fiction, mostly millennial One Direction fans who have contributed to popular websites to feed their fanbase. When asking these fans if they would ever work in tech they scoffed ‘no’, however most of these kids possessed coveted industry skills.

Overall Webstock withheld their high reputation and offered insights into a broader scope of the tech landscape. Despite an incident of misconduct with one speaker on the final day, the appropriate response reflects the conference’s commitment to positive values that reflect the future of technology being inclusive, respectful and most of all, aware. We look forward to attending next year!

Ammy and Anna on a hill in Wellington

Bilue Christmas Party 2016

The 2nd of December, 2016.

We knew that Friday the 2nd of December would be a scorcher. As some of us stepped into the office before lunch we were already sweaty. The forecast predicted tops of 38 degrees, only adding to the intensity that would result from a combination of harsh competition, kinetic limits, good times and lots of alcohol.

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Secret Santa
Kicking off the day we rekindled with our Melbourne team over early drinks, lunch and Secret Santa. On our much-loved Raphael’s last day at Bilue, he was the obvious choice to involuntarily play Santa. One by one, we each sat on his lap and received our gifts from mysterious senders. An assortment of chocolates, wines, personalised stamps, fungi farms, notebooks and hardware were given out.

Phil pays a visit to Santa                                                Cam’s turn on Santa’s lap
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Keep Cups

Each Bilue employee was also graciously gifted with our own cute and colourful KeepCups for use in the endless flow of caffeine that we each chug down day-in and day-out. 

Thank you, Santa!
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Scavenger Hunt
It was then revealed that we would all be participating in the very first Bilue Scavenger Hunt. Through careful planning and organisation over the preceding days we were all assigned to teams, given matching bandanas and specially-printed Cards against Biluemanity t-shirts featuring different cards from Bilue’s favourite game – Cards Against Humanity. We were given meticulously imaginative task lists that as we each scanned over, caused some of our faces to churn with nerves and doubt, others with excitement and relief. But most of us were affixed with the glaze of our deep inner sense of competitiveness. Some challenges included:

Take a team photo with a Christmas Tree…                  Hug a stranger….
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Wear the horse head in public…                             Order a Bilue-flavoured Messina…
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Who would win?

The Public Humiliation to Difficulty ratio throughout all of the activities ranged widely from, ‘Video of your team on a roller coaster at Luna Park’ to ‘Photo of a member of your team joining a park fitness class’ and ‘Order a Bilue themed Messina ice cream flavour’. Team leaders were decided with a quick game of Scissors, Paper, Rock and given a survival bag containing all items necessary for the challenge: cash, selfie sticks, wigs, rub cubs, water and sunscreen.

So with that, we were off.

As part of team Yellow (our shirt read ‘Mad-Hacky-Sack Skills) we decided to execute our tasks with meticulous planning and strategy. We ticked off the most achievable tasks combined with the ones which would score us the most points. ‘Team photo with Christmas Tree’ evidently became our forte and Myer’s Christmas Wonderland floor was our reigning domain. Hoards of points were tallied as we snapped all the Christmas trees we could find, completed a successful flashmob (bonus points ensued when others joined our Macarina), found a doppelgänger and took a photo with Santa (bonus points for crying).

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Live updates were streamed out to everyone across the city via Slack from Bilue HQ. Melinda and Marina kept track of which teams were leading and posted the funniest highlights (and/or lowlights) throughout the day. As we scrambled to gain as many points as we could, we could watch other teams chase points like chickens – around the Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, each interpreting their idea of ‘Lemon Party’ differently, some of us sipping espresso martinis while others climbed trees. We are a talented bunch indeed.

                                        Screenshot of Min & Marina keeping tally of the teams
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5 PM
As quickly as it started, it ended. Our final destination was delivered to each team via carrier pigeon (i.e Slack) as we all jumped into Ubers and cabs and raced to Timbah Wine Bar in Glebe. First team to arrive wins 200 points, last team to arrive loses 500 points. With everyone settled in at Timbah either sipping on a fine glass of wine, or from a chilled bottle of beer, Min and Marina stood up to deliver the final points overview and award Gold and Silver medals to the winning teams. Winners also received $100 JB Hi-Fi gift vouchers and a whole lot of pride.

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Having crowned the winners (Yellow Team), there was little more to be done than celebrate an absolutely incredible 2016 at Bilue, with many ups, downs that we would not have had any other way. There was not an empty glass in sight for the entire night, and the sound of laughter never stopped. When it got late, a few people left opting for some face time with their pillow and a good night’s sleep, those of us who didn’t soldiered on at a Pub in Glebe, playing pool, drinking and laughing right up until closing time.

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Breakfast
For our Melbourne people there was still enough time on Saturday morning to gather together at Brewistas in Glebe for breakfast and coffee. A sobering wakeup call to what was a hazy 24hrs of sweat, thirst and fun. Till next time!

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Linkly #1

Every second of everyday thousands of new entries enter their way into the internet. Sometimes it’s hard to find value in the sea of countless cat videos, memes and YouTube videos of people unpacking things they just bought.

Linkly is a curated list of just some of the links that we came across and found interesting this week. The ones that inspired us into thinking more about design and technology and how we can make our lives richer.

 

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Less flowers and trees more climbable rock walls!

A really great concept of an outdoors, adventure playground in the middle of New York City. Although a pretty far stretch, we would love to see it influence the next generation of city park designs and giving people the opportunity and even excuse in some cases to live a more active life.

 

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Space X “launches” themselves into the record books

 

In 1969 NASA scientists sent three astronauts into space, travelling at 11,000km/h, they successfully got two of these guys on to the surface of the moon to play golf and then, got them back home with no harm done to them except a bad case of Jetlag. All this was done with a NASA computer no more powerful than the last smartphone you chucked in the bin. The tech may seem funny now, and really kinda irresponsible, but looking back now, their technological advance pushed us into unseen territory.

Now we see the new generation of space tech. Seeing Space X launch a rocket guided purely by wire and then land the whole rocket onto an autonomous barge in the middle of the ocean sent chills down my neck and makes me think we are only scratching the surface of what we can do.

 


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“Anti-design” creates the most comfortable runner ever!

Designing the most simple, purest thing, can the be the hardest thing in the world. Negative space that was once your friend becomes the enemy, keylines your old faithful, turn their back on you and make your designs look like a blueprint, but maybe we should stop “trying” to design.

The creator behind the world’s most comfortable runners explains his approach to anti design.

 

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NASA image of the day

Second Space nerd article i know, this one isn’t too complicated i just really like being able to see the sound barrier being broken.

 

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And lastly something to warm the soul

These are the types of things that really inspire me. I love music, more so drums and tech and design, and there is no better payoff for me than to see them come together to help someone achieve their goal and fulfill their passions even though sometimes the barriers can be unfairly high.

It’s a simple solution, iPad running software, into an amp. Simple but one of the most meaningful.

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