Calexis

We started our little company in the early 90s and used computers as the core of our infrastructure,  This was a quite unusual at the time; but, paid off over the years.

Slowly we added people. First there was an Art Director who had recently arrived from India. She had worked for a multinational agency there and we liked the quality of her portfolio.

Slowly but surely we added people to our gang. A Spanish IT guy, a gay Media Director and so on.  Because Toronto became a magnet for immigrants, we were lucky to have hired a lot of well qualified people who didn’t have a lot of Canadian experience.

As a result, we had plenty of diversity, not intentionally, but it happened.  And it was one of the best ideas – that we never had.

Different backgrounds brought a richer environment.  We had Filipinos, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Indian, Pakistani, Mauritian, Romanian. Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Koreans, Chinese, Burmese, Icelandic, Caribbean, Emirati, American, even Italians.  For a company of 20 people, there was a majority of immigrants.

Our personnel policy even included an extra personal day for a legitimate holiday.  People took Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Ukrainian Christmas as their special days.  Which prompted discussion and explanation and additional cultural learning for everyone.

Did we do it on purpose?  We never gave it a thought.  We just looked for the right people for the job and found them.

Plus there was an advantage – a tool box full of hammers doesn’t work as well as a box of tools.  If everyone is the same, it is hard to think of original ideas.  New ideas usually come from a collision of different ideas.  In psychology, a group with a stranger included does better than a homogeneous group of friends in solving problems.

Our year end holiday parties were great because everyone brought some food that was indicative of their cultural background.  It was a treat and a real celebration.  It was also a learning experience for everyone – we learned about life in other countries and gained an appreciation for what other people could bring – new and different ideas.

It makes me wonder about all the anti-immigration rhetoric.  Why are people afraid of others who can make their society a better one?  The interaction helped all of us learn about each other and the customs became demystified.

We celebrated it, enjoyed it and even used it as an advantage in new business presentations because we actually reflected the profile of the city we all lived in.

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