Better for All: Inclusive Policies with Daniel Appelquist from Samsung Developers

Samsung Developer

Putting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) at the center of your organization or work is key to creating a better working environment, building stronger teams and developing products for a broader audience.

In this installment of our Better for All series, we’ve interviewed Daniel Appelquist from the Samsung Internet Developer Advocacy team about their approach to DE&I. Through inclusive policies that promote diversity, they’re creating a better work culture and future for tech.

Tell us about the Samsung Internet team and how you’re bringing DE&I into your projects.

We’re a small team operating out of Samsung Research UK, associated with the Samsung Internet web browser. We focus on web development and web standards, working with developers, and representing Samsung in the W3C.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, it’s an intrinsic part of our work. From developing an API to respond to foldable UI to working with W3C to update their code of conduct to supporting initiatives by underrepresented groups in tech, we are investing time and money in creating a more inclusive space online.

Dan and Laura from the Samsung Internet Advocacy Team

Why is DE&I work so important to you?

First, it’s important for me to be on the right side of DE&I issues, to be a good human. Everyone should care about DE&I—it shouldn’t require a personal relationship to be invested in the issues.

Emphasizing DE&I is also key to building strong teams and a better culture. Especially in the technology sector where you’re building tools for an international audience. Lack of diversity can cause you to miss issues that impact underrepresented groups. Having a team with different perspectives and sensibilities can help you to build better products that work for everyone.

How did DE&I become central to your work? Why is it a priority?

When I joined the Samsung team in 2016, it was important that DE&I became a part of everything I did. If I was going to build a diverse team, I would have to codify DE&I in the workplace. We started by creating a code of conduct around tech events, which included things like not participating in all-male panels. From there we worked on developing a code of conduct beyond conferences, to now looking at our process for ways we can bring DE&I to the rest of the tech community.

How does your team consult with the community and stay updated on DE&I concepts?

A lot of DE&I learning happens organically through osmosis—being around diverse groups of people, listening to the news, scrolling online forums—since it’s a discussion that’s happening all around us. In addition to listening, we also take an activist role, leading the conversation around DE&I from time to time. For example, we recently prompted a discussion with W3C around a diversity ticket for an upcoming conference, which resulted in support for the idea.

There are DevRel conferences and communities we participate in to stay involved on DE&I topics within the developer community. We also follow a lot of great accounts on Twitter such as @nonbinarytech.

How can you build a culture of DE&I in the workplace?

During recruitment, we treat DE&I like a skillset. We’re looking for people that will help build a better-balanced environment and culture, because in my personal experience, diverse teams are usually more successful. Knowing about codes of conduct and how to apply those to open source and online communities is a valuable asset.

We also have policies that we share publicly to make it clear what we stand for and what types of things we won’t tolerate. For example, we openly share our Code of Conduct online. On the Samsung website you’ll also find the company’s commitment to Diversity & Inclusion. Sharing these policies act as a great litmus test to see if who you’re looking to partner with or hire shares the same values.

Within our team we emphasize using inclusive language as part of building a culture around DE&I. For example, we avoid using the word ‘guys’ in our group chats and opt for a more gender-neutral word like ‘everyone.’ Eventually it naturally becomes a part of the culture. Now I find it quite jarring when I hear ‘guys’ in a meeting.

Finally, be patient. If you’re not able to change your entire corporate culture overnight, that’s okay. You can only influence so much; people need space to do the work and get there themselves. While we’ve managed within our team to create a micro-culture that champions DE&I, we’ve accepted that we can’t be responsible for others to change. We can only be responsible for doing the work of sparking courageous conversations around DE&I.

What is the most challenging aspect developers encounter when working towards establishing more DE&I?

You encounter people who are not supportive, which often happens where you have strongly entrenched people in a community. In tech there’s a culture where if you’re really smart, then certain rules don’t apply. Since those people are seen as thought leaders, other people believe that they can behave inappropriately too.

Having a robust code of conduct is a good way to defend your team from inappropriate behaviour, since they can always reference it when someone is acting outside of what’s acceptable. I also make sure to support my team members who’ve experienced resistance to DE&I in other tech communities. I engage with the community and encourage others to rally behind the issue, to make sure my team members feel like they aren’t alone.

How do you see DE&I shaping the future of work at Samsung and in the tech industry?

We’re still in the phase where we have to put a lot of energy into defending these concepts and ideas, even though they’re more mainstream and accepted. I have hope that in the future it will be better. Right now, we need to keep investing time and energy to keep the momentum going. I’m certainly not going to give up.

How can developers participate and contribute to DE&I?

Don’t wait for permission from corporate, just start incorporating DE&I into your process. It can be as simple as a set of guidelines and decision criteria for your team. Take initiative and make your team feel empowered to make a change. It’s up to all of us to champion DE&I.

You can start small. Put out a public statement about your DE&I values and live by them. Seek out opportunities to put power behind underserved communities. It’s a mistake to think that events like Black Girls Code are exclusive. Support for diverse communities is support for inclusiveness. Participating or sponsoring specific conferences like QueerJS helps marginalized communities gain and maintain momentum.

As an individual, what you can do is speak up. If you’re going to an event and there’s no code of conduct, mention it. Get involved. You can also take a more active role in shaping DE&I by joining groups like the W3C web standards community.

Special thanks to Daniel for sharing his team’s DE&I journey and advice on how you can be a champion of DE&I. Visit the Samsung Diversity & Inclusion page and follow @samsung_internet to stay informed on their latest DE&I efforts.

We hope you find our Better for All series helpful in shaping a more diverse and inclusive space. Stay tuned for more blog posts in our series on improving mobile accessibility to create an experience that's better for all.

Follow us on Twitter at @samsung_dev for more tips on designing and developing for Samsung.